Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher and Congressman Kelly Armstrong Introduce REGROW Act To Clean Up Orphaned Wells
Last week, Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher (TX-07) and Congressman Kelly Armstrong (ND-AL) introduced the bipartisan Revive Economic Growth and Reclaim Orphaned Wells (REGROW) Act of 2021 to clean up orphaned oil and gas wells, which can leak methane, contaminate groundwater, and create safety risks for neighboring communities. There are more than 56,000 documented “orphaned” oil and gas wells across the country. The REGROW Act aims to plug every documented orphan well in the country by investing $4.6 billion toward cleaning up these sites, creating tens of thousands of energy jobs for skilled oil and gas workers.
“Orphaned wells can harm our environment and create public health risks for neighboring communities. I am glad to partner with Congressman Armstrong to introduce bipartisan legislation that addresses these problems,” said Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher. “The REGROW Act will not only help protect our environment, but it will also create jobs for oilfield workers in Texas and across the country, which is especially important now, after the downturn brought on by COVID-19.”
“North Dakota has long been at the forefront of responsibly developing our oil and gas resources, and excels at reclaiming orphaned wells,” said Congressman Armstrong. “With more than fifty thousand abandoned oil and gas wells, cleaning them up is not only the right thing to do, but it will create and retain tens of thousands of jobs for workers in the oil and gas sector across the country. I am grateful to work with Congresswoman Fletcher in this bipartisan effort.”
Most documented orphaned wells are located on state and private land. Even before the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, federal agencies and states responsible for plugging and reclaiming these wells had limited funding for cleanup. According to the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission, Texas has largest orphan well plugging program out of 35 states responding to a survey on orphan well plugging operations, plugging around 1,400 of the 3,356 orphan wells in 2018.
Specifically, the REGROW Act provides:
Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND).
The REGROW Act is endorsed by leading energy and environmental groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).
“The introduction of the REGROW Act in the House is an important demonstration of bipartisanship that supports local economic development and addresses environmental hazards. EDF applauds Representatives Fletcher and Armstrong for introducing this bill and appreciates the variety of legislative solutions on the table to create jobs and protect local communities from air, water and climate pollution by addressing the orphan wells crisis in America. More than 100,000 oil and gas workers have lost their jobs in the past year and this effort will put people back to work while creating a healthier environment,” said Elizabeth Gore, Senior Vice President, Political Affairs, Environmental Defense Fund. “This bill will ensure every documented orphan well in the U.S. is plugged. It will also help identify and catalogue the hundreds of thousands of other improperly abandoned wells across the country. And it will ensure that when wells are plugged, they are plugged properly. This is an important piece of the overarching reforms – including reforms to bonding and other policies that prevent wells from becoming orphaned in the future – needed to reduce the environmental impact of the oil and gas industry.”
IPAA President & CEO Barry Russell said, “The Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) supports actions to address orphan wells. States have been acting to plug these wells for decades. The REGROW Act would provide additional funds for these state programs and aid their initiatives and the workers who undertake these efforts during the difficult fiscal times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. IPAA urges Congress to take swift action on this legislation. We applaud the leadership of Reps. Armstrong and Fletcher in working with all interested parties on this legislation that will help address this important issue in a reasonable and thoughtful manner.”