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Energy & Environment

State Eligible For $55 Million To Cap Orphaned Oil, Gas Wells, Feds Say

Benny Becker

West Virginia is getting some federal help to clean up abandoned oil and gas wells.

The U.S. Department of the Interior on Monday said the state is eligible for up to $55 million from last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law.

West Virginia has more than 4,000 documented abandoned oil and gas wells, but there are likely many more.

Uncapped wells contaminate soil and groundwater and release methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas that’s 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

The state Department of Environmental Protection is charged with identifying the sites, but the program is understaffed.

The initial round of federal funding will help DEP boost staffing. The Interior Department will issue guidance in the coming weeks on applying for the grants.

Orphaned wells can be costly to fix. On average, it costs $55,000 to cap a well, usually with concrete. Depth is a major factor driving the cost.

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