Mullin, Cramer, Luján, Heinrich, Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Develop New Technology to Identify and Plug Orphaned Wells

Today, U.S. Senators Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced the Abandoned Well Remediation Research and Development Act (AWRRDA) to support the identification and remediation of abandoned gas and oil wells. These abandoned wells leak methane and other toxic air pollutants, contaminate groundwater, and create community safety risks.

Given abandoned wells’ detrimental impacts and the high costs associated with their remediation, new methods and technologies are urgently needed to plug wells more efficiently and economically, and prevent further abandonment of the over 1 million wells that are currently active in the U.S. The Abandoned Well Remediation Research and Development Act (AWRRDA) will enhance well remediation programs around the country, including those currently funded by the REGROW Act. Specifically, AWRRDA will support the Department of Energy’s efforts to develop:

  • Technology to detect and catalog abandoned wells more rapidly and efficiently, and accurately quantify their impacts on air and groundwater quality.
  • Processes to plug and remediate abandoned wells more efficiently, economically, and sustainably;
  • Innovative alternative uses for abandoned wells, including geothermal power production or carbon dioxide storage, which will create entirely new economic sectors that leverage abandoned and hazardous infrastructure

“Oklahoma is home to over 17,800 documented abandoned gas and oil wells,” said Senator Mullin. “If left unplugged, abandoned wells can leak methane, contaminate groundwater, and damage land cultivation at a significant cost to landowners. Our bill will provide the resources needed to improve methods for identifying, repurposing, and remediating these wells, thereby cutting costs for landowners and eliminating the potential for environmental hazards across the state. Oklahomans are blessed with abundant, God-given natural resources, and many have made their livelihoods off our beautiful environment. I’m glad to join Senators Cramer, Luján, and Heinrich in introducing this legislation to enhance well remediation programs, lower costs, and improve land safety.”

“North Dakota has led by example remediating abandoned wells, and further progress has been made with the passage of the REGROW Act. Our bill keeps this momentum going by investing in new and innovative ways to track the problem and ultimately mitigate the damage so land is returned to productive use, emissions are reduced, and safety issues are addressed in the most efficient manner,” said Senator Cramer.

“There are more than 2 million abandoned oil and gas wells across America that pose tremendous health, safety, and environmental risks to the surrounding communities. That’s why I worked to pass the REGROW Act to address abandoned wells and cut methane emissions, but more research is needed to identify and address these wells quickly and efficiently,” said Senator Luján. “I’m proud to reintroduce this bipartisan legislation alongside Senators Cramer, Heinrich, and Mullin which will make a real difference across New Mexico and the country.”  

“Orphan wells are an enormous source of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 86 times more potent than CO2. If we increase the U.S. Department of Energy’s ability to develop better technologies to detect, plug, and find alternative uses for these wells, we can put more of our traditional energy workers to work solving a major climate challenge,” said Senator Heinrich.

Full text of the bill is available HERE.