Federal money on the way to cap Colorado’s hazardous, abandoned oil and gas wells

Federal money on the way to cap Colorado’s hazardous, abandoned oil and gas wells

Federal officials announced the state’s allotment to fight “legacy pollution” and to replace jobs lost in the oil and gas industry.

Colorado can expect tens of millions from the federal government to plug and restore hundreds of orphaned oil and gas wells out of the bipartisan infrastructure bill that Congress passed last year, government officials said.

In all the infrastructure bill set aside $4.7 billion nationally to clean orphaned wells, and White House officials broke down how the first $1.15 billion would be spent during a news conference Tuesday.

So far 26 states qualify for $25 million each and an additional allotment tailored for each state and calculated off the number of oil and gas jobs lost there, how many orphan wells likely remain and their estimated restoration costs, White House spokesperson Rykia Dorsey Craig said in a release. Colorado qualified for another $14 million, bringing its total allotment to $39 million.

Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Director Julie Murphy said this month that the state has 625 orphaned wells, which would cost more than $47 million to plug, remediate and reclaim.

The commission has estimated that it costs an average of $82,500 to plug and reclaim a single well.

The incoming federal money is good news for Colorado, Beau Kiklis of Conservation Colorado, said.

Aside from orphaned wells, Colorado has up to 19,000 wells producing less than the equivalent of two barrels of oil each day, according to Kate Oehl, a spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

Even more money will be on the way. Landrieu said White House officials are letting states know how much they can expect through the life of the program. The senators said Colorado should see another $40 million.

By Conrad Swanson, The Denver Post