ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The United States Department of Interior has awarded New York State $25 million to cap abandoned oil and gas wells. The funding, announced on Monday, is part of a $1.15 billion investment included in President Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to reclaim orphaned wells around the country.
Together, abandoned wells emit greenhouse gases equivalent to 7 to 20 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. They also pollute natural areas and communities with toxic chemicals that can affect water, air, and soil.
“By locating, assessing, and plugging these decades-old oil and gas wells, we are making major contributions towards reducing air pollution that significantly contributes to climate change by preventing them from leaking methane into the environment,” Governor Hochul said. “Methane represents almost 10% of the state’s annual greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing it is a key piece of New York’s commitment to confronting the existential threat of climate change head on. I thank the New York Congressional Delegation for including this effort in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and look forward to putting these funds to good use.”
In 2020, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) announced the deployment of drone technology to help map and locate oil and gas wells, some of which had been abandoned for more than a century. To support this effort, NYSERDA invested in custom-built drone equipment and instrumentation for DEC drone pilots to detect the presence of abandoned oil and gas wells, primarily located in Central and Western New York, that may present risks to the environment. These regions were drilled for oil and gas starting in the 19th-century, before the State’s regulatory programs and often in remote locations.
Since 2013, DEC has plugged more than 400 wells. Their work on abandoned wells in New York also indicates that thousands of additional wells may continue to emit methane gas into the atmosphere.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “DEC looks forward to expanding our progress in plugging orphaned oil and gas wells for the benefit of the environment and public safety. I applaud the federal government for coming together on this bipartisan agreement to reduce the risks abandoned wells present to surface and groundwater. Unplugged wells also emit methane, a known contributor to climate change. These funds will help us to continue our work to achieve New York’s ambitious climate goals.”