The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in partnership with the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR), is awarding $12.7 million in funding from President Biden’sfor contracts to plug and remediate 151 orphaned wells on five national wildlife refuges in Louisiana.
The announcement comes during the Interior Department’s “Legacy Pollution Week,” an opportunity to honor the work that has been done, and the opportunities ahead. Millions of Americans nationwide live within just one mile of an abandoned coal mine or orphaned oil and gas well. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s $16 billion historic investment in legacy pollution is creating new opportunities for revitalization across the country.
The Service entered into a cooperative agreement with the State of Louisiana to plug 11 orphaned wells in Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge, seven in Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge, six in Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge, 59 in the Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge, and 68 in D’Arbonne National Wildlife Refuge.
“This is an important undertaking, and we are fortunate to partner with the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources to ensure these orphaned wells no longer pose a threat to natural resources and public health,” said Service Director Martha Williams. “We recognize some of these projects are multi-year endeavors, and we are committed to the process. We look forward to the day when our collective efforts have eliminated the environmental and safety hazards to communities and wildlife caused by these derelict structures.”
Sites are classified as “orphaned” when oil and gas wells are no longer used for an authorized purpose, and their operators cannot be located. Many of the identified sites are actively leaking hydrocarbons, methane and contaminated water and pose a threat to natural resources and public health and safety. Pre-survey work to detect the level of methane emissions and amount of water contamination began in Louisiana in October and will continue throughout the winter. Once surveys are complete, plugging and abandonment operations can begin. The process of reclaiming the refuge lands may take several years to complete.
Prior to Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding, the Service relied on state oil and gas commissions to plug orphaned wells on refuge lands. It’s estimated that there are several hundred orphaned wells located on refuges across America, and partnerships with states are an effective way to mitigate this complex issue.
Louisiana’s existing Oilfield Site Restoration (OSR) program addressed an average of 150 orphaned wells annually throughout the state under the existing state funding model. With Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding, they will be able to increase their capacity. This investment will allow LDNR to continue the work of plugging orphaned wells, establish or revise protocols and programs for methane and water quality testing and monitoring, address disproportionate impacts to disadvantaged communities from orphaned wells, and create jobs to restore oilfield sites.
“We appreciate the opportunity to work with our federal partners in addressing orphaned sites to help preserve and protect the wildlife habitats that are such an important part of the culture and history of Louisiana,” said LDNR Secretary Tom Harris.
DNR awarded the first two contracts and selected Dynamic Group, LLC for LDNR Project No. 431-PA23-001 to focus primarily on projects in the Monroe Conservation District, which is where the Upper Ouachita, D’Arbonne and Black Bayou Lake refuges are located. LDNR selected Lemoine Disaster Recovery, LLC for LDNR Project No. 431-PA23-002 to focus primarily on projects in the Shreveport Conservation District. While these contracts largely target areas of North Louisiana, where well populations and numbers of orphaned well sites are denser, they will also cover the orphan well projects on the Lacassine and Atchafalaya refuges located in the southern part of the state. More details on contract awards may be found on LDNR’s website.
These projects will help support the America the Beautiful initiative to conserve, connect and restore our nation’s lands, waters and wildlife.
– FWS –
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit www.fws.gov and connect with us on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, and YouTube.