Dozens of so-called orphaned wells in Oklahoma’s Deep Fork National Wildlife Refuge will be among those to be plugged under the Department of Interior’s investment of nearly $64 million announced this week.
The $63.8 million is through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said it will put people to work plugging and remediating the oil and gas well sites located in national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges and other public lands.
At least 45 wells in the Deep Fork Refuge are among 317 orphaned wells and well sites across 14 states that will be plugged in the project.
The Deep Fork National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1993 to protect one of the last remaining remnants of bottomland hardwood forest in Oklahoma. Centered largely in the floodplain of the Deep Fork of the North Canadian River, the refuge extends along approximately 34 miles of the river in a northwest-southeast direction. The refuge is approximately 100 miles east of Oklahoma City and 35 miles south of Tulsa.
“Decades of drilling have left behind thousands of non-producing wells that now threaten the health and wellbeing of our communities, our lands, and our waters,” said Secretary Deb Haaland in the announcement.
The number of wells to be plugged in Oklahoma is the third highest of the targeted sites. Kentucky is highest with 130 wells while there are 48 targeted sites in Pennsylvania.
In addition to these projects led by federal bureaus, $560 million in initial grants was awarded to states last year to address orphaned oil and gas wells on state and private lands as part of this historic economic and environmental investment.