The state of Texas will receive $80 million in federal funding to plug orphaned oil wells, United States Congressperson Henry Cuellar and the Department of the Interior have announced.
The money to plug the abandoned wells — many of which are leaking methane, a gas with extremely high heat-trapping properties — will come from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and will be administered by the Texas Railroad Commission, reported Texas Insider.
There’s more good news for the Lone Star State, too. In addition to cleaning up many hazardous, polluting sites, the project is expected to create up to 35,000 new jobs.
“Methane mitigation is an industry that could create many jobs for Texans that can improve job standards in our state,” the president of Texas AFL-CIO, a large labor federation that includes 235,000 union members, wrote in a report.
“We want to show that environmental policies are not job killers,” Christopher Agbo, research and policy coordinator for the Texas Climate Jobs Project, told Inside Climate News. “You can create tens of thousands of good-paying, family-sustaining union jobs while also cutting back on emissions.”
According to the Environmental Defense Fund, there are 6,489 documented orphaned wells across the state of Texas and more than 81,000 other orphaned wells nationwide.
The hazards of these sites are numerous — the orphaned wells, when unplugged, can leak oil and other toxic chemicals into the surrounding groundwater, contribute to air pollution, and release methane. They also create flooding and sinkhole risks, per the U.S. Department of the Interior.
They are a prime example of how environmentally destructive the oil industry is, even when the oil-extracting operations are no longer in business.
“Ranchers and farmers in my district know firsthand the effects of abandoned oil and gas wells, which contaminate our air and drinking water,” Rep. Cuellar said in a statement quoted by Texas Insider. “These federal funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will be crucial to Texas’s efforts to plug orphaned wells while creating thousands of good-paying jobs in our state.”
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