N.M. to get $43M to clean up abandoned oil wells

N.M. to get $43M to clean up abandoned oil wells

New Mexico will receive $43.7 million in federal infrastructure money to clean up abandoned oil wells as part of an initial $1.15 billion in funding for the nationwide effort to remove these sources of air and groundwater pollution.

The infrastructure bill, signed into law in November, allocates $4.7 billion to create a new federal program for cleaning up defunct wells across the country. They are a widespread problem in oil-producing states such as New Mexico, polluting residential areas and public spaces.

Estimates vary about the number of abandoned wells in the state. An independent study said there are about 700 orphaned wells on record, as well as thousands of idle and low-producing wells that could become orphaned.

The federal package is offering three types of grants, which include up to $25 million for a state’s initial eligibility and additional money based on its number of orphaned wells, estimated cleanup costs and job losses in the fossil fuel industry between March 2020 and November 2021.

The federal government also has a total of $1.5 billion in “performance grants” to dispense to states that show improvement in remediating orphan wells and regulating their oil and gas sectors.

Scott Wyland, Santa Fe New Mexican