New Mexico to receive $25M to plug 200 orphaned wells

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KIRTLAND, N.M. — Officials from the Biden-Harris administration were in Kirtland Thursday for a big announcement. Hundreds of millions of dollars from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will be used to address orphaned oil and gas wells.

Millions of Americans are impacted by legacy pollution, including in New Mexico.

“I come from a community, Laguna Pueblo that suffers from the impacts of environmental injustice, our health, our water, our elders continue to feel these devastating consequences of the nation’s largest open pit uranium mine,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said.

It’s not just open mines creating environmental hazards, but also a sight all too familiar in San Juan County – orphaned oil and gas wells.

“Millions of Americans live within just one mile of an orphaned oil or gas well all across this country these are environmental hazards,” Haaland said.

While these wells are long forgotten, their environmental impact is ongoing.

“That contaminate ground water, litter the land scape with rusted and dangerous equipment, harm wild life and leak methane a serious safety hazard and significant cause of climate change, and its hazardous to people and children,” Haaland added.

As part of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, $560 million will go towards cleaning up 10,000 orphaned wells in 24 states. New Mexico will receive $25 million to plug 200 high-priority wells across the state.

“That’s 400% more than we normally do in a year, we normally plug 50 wells a year maybe.” Sarah Cottrell Propst, EMNRD cabinet secretary, said.

The administration said these environmental efforts have the ability to unearth a new economy.

“Today’s announcement is just one part of the $16 billion allocated through the infrastructure law to tackle legacy pollution and create good paying union jobs and create economic revitalization,” Haaland said.