Summer Lee Introduces the Bipartisan Abandoned Well Remediation Research and Development Act with Stephanie Bice 

Jul 25, 2023
Press

**For Immediate Release**

July 25, 2025

Summer Lee Introduces the Bipartisan Abandoned Well Remediation Research and Development Act with Stephanie Bice 

(Washington, DC) Today, Congresswoman Summer Lee (D-PA-12), who serves on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee introduced the Bipartisan Abandon Well Remediation Act with Congresswoman Stephanie Rice (R-OK-12) to address the impact of methane emissions from abandoned oil and gas wells by creating an abandoned wells research, development, and demonstration program at the Department of Energy (DOE). Abandoned oil and gas wells, which have no solvent owner of record, can leak oil, gas and other toxic chemicals into our air and water, are a growing problem in the U.S. Studying and plugging these wells will protect our environment, climate, and communities while creating well-paying, stable jobs.

Congresswoman Lee said, “Where I grew up in Braddock, our air is already so dirty that we have some of the highest rates of pollution causing childhood asthma and respiratory illnesses in this country. Folks in communities left behind like Western PA simply cannot afford toxic methane from abandoned oil and gas wells leaking into our air and water–yet oil and gas companies are abandoning wells far, far faster than we’re able to plug or even identify them. On top of the harm to the health of our loved ones, abandoned wells, which just so happen to impact Black and brown communities at twice the rate, also mean lower property values and land productivity, with one study in Pennsylvania showing a 50% drop-off in building development in areas with high concentrations of abandoned wells. I’m proud to introduce the ‘Bipartisan Abandoned Well R&D Act’ to protect our communities from abandoned oil and gas wells by creating a new research, development, and demonstration program at the Department of Energy.”

The problem: 

  • At least 25% of today’s warming is driven by methane emissions from human activities.
  • Methane emissions from oil and gas wells – some of which date back as early as the 1850s including orphan wells, remains a significant driver of short-term climate change [EDF] 
  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that methane emissions from over 2 million inactive, unplugged wells, of which documented orphan wells are a subset, range from a CO2 equivalent of 7-20 million metric tons per year (approximately the emissions of 2 to 5 million cars).
  • Abandoned wells also lower property values and land productivity, with one study in Pennsylvania showing a 50% drop-off in building development in areas with high orphan well concentration.
  • It is unclear how many abandoned wells there are in the country; estimates range from 700,000 to 3,000,000 with the US EPA estimating emissions from over 2 million inactive, unplugged wells, of which documented orphan wells are a subset, range from a CO2 equivalent of 7-20 million metric tons per year (approximately the emissions of 2 to 5 million cars). 
  • This updated map shows a total of 120,000 documented orphan wells across 30 states that are eligible for closure funding under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. 
  • EDF has also calculated that approximately 14 million Americans live within a mile of a documented orphan well, which has no solvent owner of record, can leak oil, gas and other toxic chemicals into our air and water.
  • The current plugging and remediation process is challenging due to difficulty locating wells, minimal understand of methane emission rates, and cost barriers.

The Solution: 

  • This bill will amend the Energy Act of 2005 to create an abandoned wells research, development, and demonstration program at the Department of Energy (DOE) with respect to abandoned wells, and for other purposes.
  • This bill will direct the Secretary of DOE to create and carry out this program to focus on a range of key technology areas to understand methane emission rates, low carbon lightweight cement, technology to improve remote plugging, ways to repurpose wells for geothermal power or CCUS, and technology to understand impacts of abandoned wells on groundwater.

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