Legacy Pollution

Millions of Americans across the country live within just one mile from an abandoned coal mine or an orphaned oil and gas well. These legacy pollution sites are environmental hazards and jeopardize public health and safety by contaminating groundwater, emitting noxious gases like methane, littering the landscape with rusted and dangerous equipment, creating flooding and sinkhole risks, and harming wildlife. President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law delivers the largest investment in tackling legacy pollution in American history. 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s $16 billion historic investment will go directly to plugging orphaned wells and reclaiming abandoned mine lands. These resources will help communities eliminate dangerous conditions and pollution caused by past extraction activities. Projects to cap orphaned oil and gas wells, close dangerous mine shafts, improve water drainage, and restore water supplies damaged by mining will create good-paying jobs to strengthen local economies.  

The Law invests in supporting and protecting communities by funding:  

  • $11.3 billion to provide grants to states and Tribes for abandoned coal mine land reclamation. $25 million will be used to help states update their abandoned mine land inventories.  
  • $4.7 billion for orphaned well site plugging, remediation and restoration activities. In addition to addressing legacy pollution, resources are available to states to create immediate jobs and build the foundation for a clean energy economy: 
    • $4.3 billion to be used to plug orphan wells on state and private lands.  
    • $250 million to cap orphan wells on public lands, including in national parks, national forests, and wildlife refuges.  
    • $150 million to cap orphan wells on Tribal lands.  

The Department of the Interior is committed to helping working families, often in rural and Tribal communities, address the environmental impacts from these legacy developments. The resources made available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will finally help communities reclaim abandoned mine land, plug orphaned oil and gas wells, and revitalize their economies after years of struggling with hazardous pollution, toxic water levels and land subsidence both during and long after energy companies have moved on.   


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