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Michigan receives $25 million in federal funding to plug up abandoned oil, gas wells

orphanwell
Government of Alberta
/
Flickr
Orphans wells are abandoned oil or gas wells, which have no known owner and become the state's responsibility to close.

Michigan has been plugging away at plugging abandoned oil and gas wells - for decades. A new grant from the US Department of Interior will help boost the state’s efforts.

Michigan has 447 documented orphan wells, which can leach harmful chemicals into waterways and release toxic vapors.

The state typically works with a million-dollar annual budget to plug up wells and has closed 400 wells over the last 30 years. But a new $25 million dollar federal grant should ramp up progress.

Scott Dean is with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. He said the state can now hire additional staff and start more clean-up projects.

“We're really pleased to have this infrastructure funding, and we're committed to cleaning up as many of these oil and gas wells, allowing these lands to go back into productive use," Dean said. "We're quite excited about this project, it's really gonna help jumpstart our program.”

Dean said no goals or timeline have been developed yet. He said the state hopes to close “as many wells as possible.”

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corp Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She is covering rural environmental issues, public health and Michigan commerce. Homsi has a bachelor’s from Central Michigan University in environmental studies, journalism and anthropology. During her undergraduate, she was a beat reporter for CMU’s student newspaper Central Michigan Life and interned for the Huron Daily Tribune. She has also interned for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy in the superfund section. *Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms, more info at https://www.reportforamerica.org/