West Virginia receiving money from infrastructure law for plugging wells

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection will receive funding for plugging orphan oil and gas wells in West Virginia due to the passage of the federal infrastructure law.

President Joe Biden signed infrastructure-related legislation into law last November; West Virginia is set to receive billions of dollars for road construction, water system improvements and expanding broadband. States can also apply for federal grants for cleaning up abandoned sites.

James Martin, the director of the state’s Office of Oil and Gas, spoke before the House of Delegates Finance Committee on Monday about the money, which will come from grant programs.

Martin told lawmakers it has been challenging to plug gas and oil wells because of the lack of funding and the location of sites.

West Virginia is eligible for $25 million in initial funding for activities. Martin said officials hope to begin using the grant funding by June.

“That particular grant is on a real tight timeline for what’s being described as obligating those funds,” he said. “Those funds have to be obligated within 12 months, so we’re trying to get some clarification right now from the [federal] Department of the Interior on what that really means in terms of obligations.”

The state can also seek funding through a formula grant program and performance grant initiative.

Martin said the amount of money from the formula grant will depend on multiple factors, including the number of wells in the state, the cost of plugging wells, and job losses in the oil and gas industry.

“We don’t know what that number is going to be yet,” he said. “That’s why it’s called a formula grant.

Martin said the state could use formula grant funding by mid-2023.

The performance grant program has $70 million eligible for states; federal officials will consider environmental standards and funding sources.

Martin told delegates while he still needs details about the grant programs, the maximum amount the state could receive has been set.

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