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Nearly $6 million heading to Michigan to further its orphan well plugging effort

Today’s MI Environment story is based on a press release from the U.S. Department of Interior.

Adam Wygant, director of EGLE's Oil, Gas, and Minerals Division, talks with Deb Haaland, U.S. Department of Interior Secretary, at a legacy pollution roundtable discussion in Wayne, MI.

Adam Wygant, director of EGLE's Oil, Gas, and Minerals Division, talks with Deb Haaland, U.S. Department of Interior Secretary, at a legacy pollution roundtable discussion in Wayne, MI. Courtesy of Laborers’ International Union of North America.


Michigan is the recipient of a new $5.87 million investment to continue work on plugging, reclaiming and restoring orphaned oil and gas wells across the state.

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland made the announcement during a legacy pollution roundtable discussion with state, labor and business leaders on March 26 in Wayne, Mich.

“We are very pleased with today’s announcement and the continued work with the Department of the Interior,” said Adam Wygant, director of the Oil, Gas, and Minerals Division at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). “It is allowing us to protect groundwater, return sites to full use, put people to work, and mitigate methane leaks. This federal funding is allowing us to do decades of work within the span of two to four years.”

Secretary Haaland said the investment, made through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, is the largest to tackle legacy pollution in American history, and includes $4.7 billion to plug orphaned wells. In August 2022, the Interior Department awarded $560 million in initial grant funding to 24 states, including $25 million to Michigan, to begin work plugging and cleaning up orphaned wells nationwide. 

Since then, states have plugged over 7,000 wells, including more than 200 in Michigan, and reduced approximately 11,530 metric tons of potential methane emissions. Across the country, investments through the new program are estimated to have supported 7,213 jobs and contributed more than $900 million over the last two fiscal years.

The announcement was part of a second round of funding as well as the President’s broader effort to help states to create good-paying union jobs, catalyze economic growth and revitalization, and reduce harmful methane leaks. 

“President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is creating jobs and revitalizing local economies while cleaning up harmful legacy pollution sites throughout the country,” said Secretary Haaland. “I’ve seen many of these hazardous sites firsthand that are actively leaking oil and releasing methane gas that need to be urgently addressed. With this historic funding, Michigan can continue the progress made plugging wells over the last year. These investments are good for our climate, for the health of our communities, and for American workers.” 

As part of its award, Michigan will measure methane emissions from orphaned wells the state plugs, screen for groundwater and surface water impacts, and prioritize cleaning up wells near overburdened, low-income and Tribal communities. This award advances President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which set a goal that 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that have been historically marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution. 

Orphaned oil and gas wells are polluting backyards, recreation areas, and community spaces across the country. Many of these unplugged wells pose serious health and safety threats by contaminating groundwater, releasing toxic air pollutants, and leaking methane – a “super pollutant” that is a significant cause of climate change and many times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Plugging orphaned wells supports broader Biden-Harris administration efforts under the U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan.  

More details are in the press release issued by the Department of Interior.