Lucas, Bice unveil bipartisan bill to study, plug, remediate abandoned oil, gas wells

The U.S. Secretary of Energy would be directed to carry out a research, development and demonstration program regarding abandoned oil and gas wells under a bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Reps. Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Stephanie Bice (R-OK).

“Locating, closing or repurposing wells is critical work that can reduce methane emissions and reclaim resources. But doing this work is difficult and costly,” Rep. Lucas said. “This legislation will help us identify new materials and advanced techniques to find and manage abandoned wells, which will help our environment and our energy sector.”

The Abandoned Well Remediation Research and Development Act, H.R. 4270, which Reps. Bice and Lucas cosponsored on June 30 with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA), would authorize up to $30 million in fiscal year 2022, increasing to $35 million in FY 2026, to help improve data collection on the location of abandoned wells; advance plugging, remediation and reclamation efforts; and bolster environmental remediation practices, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers.

“America’s energy sector has experienced multiple challenges in recent years, including termination of the Keystone Pipeline, lower production and job losses, in addition to the impact of the pandemic,” said Rep. Bice. “As a result, thousands of wells have been shuttered. My home state of Oklahoma has an incredible program that helps address abandoned well sites, and it’s past time we do something similar on the federal level.”

Oklahoma currently has 1,277 listed abandoned oil and gas wells, compared to more than 3.2 million abandoned oil and gas wells in the United States, according to 2018 data provided by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“In Oklahoma, we have thousands of abandoned wells with an average cost of $40k to $70k to properly close,” Rep. Lucas said. “For some sites, the costs could rise to nearly $1 million.” 

“This legislation will help create energy sector jobs for so many that have lost employment, while helping the environment,” added Rep. Bice.