Investing in Legacy Pollution Clean Up
Last edited 4/29/2022
President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests billions in the clean-up of legacy pollution sites including plugging orphaned oil and gas wells and reclamation of abandoned mine lands. These investments build a foundation for future job growth and new economic opportunities.
Pump jack in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas. Photo by National Park Service.
Orphan wells are what is left behind after extractive companies are no longer operating in an area. An orphaned well is one that is no longer being used for production or injection, is not being monitored by a company or the operator is unable to plug the well and to remediate and reclaim the well site.
Orphaned and Idle Wells
California’s Los Angeles area has one of the highest concentrations of orphaned and idle wells in the country. These sites are hazardous to communities throughout the region.
This field before reclamation was used for hunting and pastureland. Photo by DOI.
Abandoned Mine Lands
Abandoned mine lands are left behind after a coal operator has moved on. These sites create dangerous environmental conditions and pollution that impacts communities and wildlife. This 20-acre abandoned mine site in North Dakota was located near two popular recreation areas contained dangerous highwalls and a large, water-filled pit. The site not only posed a hazard to the public, but also raised liability concerns for private landowners who used the property as horse pasture and a hunting area. North Dakota's Abandoned Mine Land program addressed these issues by eliminating approximately 1,300 feet of dangerous highwalls, creating a pond that recharges fresh water, and preserving a prehistoric, petrified tree stump, estimated to be between 55 and 60 million years old. (This field before reclamation was used for hunting and pastureland).
Abandoned mine lands site: Before Reclamation
The Stineman Refuse Pile in Pennsylvania was hazardous to surrounding areas due to acid mine drainage that polluted groundwater and the Conemaugh River.
Abandoned mine land site: After Reclamation
This project reclaimed over 600,000 cubic yards of refuse and installed vegetation to buffer nearby waterways. A safer walking trail was created and expanded recreation opportunities along the river.