U.S. Secretary of Labor works to clean up New Mexico wilderness

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FARMINGTON, N.M. – U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh is working to make New Mexico wilderness a little cleaner, and he’s focusing on abandoned wells.

Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez joined Walsh to visit an abandoned well site in the state.

"You can’t describe it as anything other than a mess, but it’s a mess that is on a daily basis harming our environment and it’s not producing anything of good for anybody," Leger Fernandez said.

They also talked about the bipartisan infrastructure bill that includes funding to cap orphaned well sites.

"The infrastructure package and the funding within it would provide the state with a really great opportunity to do more plugging work. So when we talk about plugging an orphaned well, what that means is that we’re going to remove all of the equipment on the site and what we’re gonna do is we’re going to isolate all the zones from one another so that they no longer pose any risk,” said Adrienne Sandoval, the Oil Conservation Division director within the Energy Minerals And Resources Department.

The bill provides $21 billion for environmental remediation, and by cleaning these wells it may also provide dozens of jobs.

"This is an opportunity to add jobs to a place like Aztec. We all know that the energy industry is the primary tax pays for the state, especially for places like here in the San Juan basin. But what were able to do by cleaning up stuff like this in the technology already exist it’s not anything high in the sky it’s not crazy,” said Victor Snober, mayor of Aztec.

Walsh was grateful for the opportunity.

"I come from Boston, and you know we’re not dealing with issues of orphaned wells. And certainly as secretary of labor this is a priority of the President and Vice President, and they wanted me to make sure to go around the country to see what we’re advocating for, so thank you,” said Walsh.