A new act proposed by Senators Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., and Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., would help close up orphaned wells across the county, potentially creating thousands of jobs in the process.
The Revive Economic Growth and Reclaim Orphaned Wells Act - or REGROW Act - has bipartisan support, and hopes to close up old oil and gas wells that can leak methane and pose a general threat to community safety. The act would put former energy workers back to work, utilizing the skills of a workforce that has been hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, all while cutting down on emissions.
Luján praised New Mexico for leading the nation in climate action and said he was "proud to introduce bipartisan legislation to build on our state's momentum, help slash methane emissions, and create new opportunities. The REGROW Act will put New Mexicans back to work while safeguarding our environment and reducing harmful air pollution," he said in a press release.
Luján said the Act would help out-of-work New Mexicans all while doing something good for the environment. He said there are at least 700 orphaned wells in New Mexico alone, and the legislation would clean up those and others all across the country.
"While thousands of the nation's oilfield workers are out of a job, our country has over 50,000 abandoned oil and gas wells with no one responsible for their cleanup," said Cramer in the press release. He added that North Dakota would similarly benefit from the need for workers. Cramer called the legislation "a win for workers, landowners and the environment."
The act would put $4.275 billion toward orphan well cleanup on state and private lands, $400 million toward orphan well cleanup on tribal and public lands, and $32 million to research, development and implementation.
So far, the REGROW Act has support from many sectors, including endorsements by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) and the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA). Additional support comes from organizations like the Clean Air Council, the New Mexico Department of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources, and the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, among others.
Gov. Michelle Luján Grisham also showed her support for the legislation.
"Orphan wells can pose a significant threat to the environment by emitting greenhouse gases or threatening our water supply. Remediating these sites protects our environment and puts people to work, stimulating local economies," said Luján Grisham of the REGROW Act. "I applaud Sen. Luján for co-sponsoring this bipartisan legislation that will benefit New Mexico's lands and waters and workers."