Federal grants would help tribes clean up abandoned oil, gas wells

The U.S. Department of Interior is accepting grant applications that would allow tribes to clean up abandoned oil and gas wells.

When oil and gas wells are left unsealed or capped, they can contaminate groundwater and harm wildlife.

There are several thousand of these wells on tribal land.

“There are a lot of goals of the orphaned oil and gas well program,” said Winne Stachelberg with the Department of Interior. “Tribes have access to these dollars now, and funding will be available under President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law.”

There are $50 million dollars available in grant funding. $150 million will be available over the next five years.

“The window for applications will stay open for a couple of months, but we are all very ready to work with tribes to ensure their grant applications are as strong as possible,” said Stachelberg.

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It’s not clear how long these wells have been abandoned.

“There are thousands and thousands of orphaned oil and gas wells on tribal lands,” said Stachelberg. “It’s also important to also note that this is the result of a 60-day nation-to-nation consultation process that provides instructions to tribes on how to apply for orphaned oil and gas wells.”

Applications for the grant money is due Jan. 20, and all tribes that have oil wells on their land qualify.