House science committee advances Bice abandoned wells bill

The U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee on Jan. 19 unanimously approved bipartisan legislation co-authored and introduced by U.S. Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-OK) that would establish a federal research, development and demonstration program for abandoned wells across America.

The Abandoned Well Remediation Research and Development Act, H.R. 4270, which Rep. Bice cosponsored in June 2021 with bill sponsor and co-author U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA), would task the U.S. Department of Energy with establishing the program, which would provide an initial authorization level of $30 million in fiscal year 2022 that would be increased to $35 million in FY 2026.

“Nearly half a million wells have been drilled in my home state of Oklahoma, and while they support hundreds of thousands of jobs when active, legacy sites and abandoned wells have become a problem for landowners,” Rep. Bice said. “The Oklahoma Energy Resources Board does a great job of cleaning up well sites, but we must focus on innovation in this area to help rein in the costs associated with plugging wells around the country.”

An estimated 700,000 to three million abandoned wells exist in the U.S., costing between $30,000 to $1 million per well to plug, according to information provided by Rep. Bice’s staff, which noted that improving the technologies and methods associated with the plugging and remediation process could reduce such costs, mitigate environmental harms, improve remediation efficiency, and reduce methane emissions.

“With the right investments in research and development, these abandoned wells don’t have to be an environmental hazard or cease beneficial use,” said U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, who also cosponsored H.R. 4270. “These wells have the potential to produce more reliable, clean energy that can serve communities across the nation. As the ranking member of the Environment Subcommittee, Rep. Stephanie Bice is leading the way in these issues and I applaud her for working on and introducing this important legislation.”

The measure now heads to the full U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.