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North Dakota eyes federal funds for well plugging program

November 27, 2021 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota wants to extend the state’s abandoned well plugging program by tapping into $4 billion made available in the federal infrastructure bill for the purpose of cleaning up old oil and gas sites across the nation.

The Bismarck Tribune reports funding could potentially come North Dakota’s way each year over the next decade to continue the work the Oil and Gas Division started in 2020 to clean up hundreds of wells.

North Dakota spent tens of millions of dollars in federal coronavirus aid plugging more than 300 abandoned wells and reclaiming the sites over the past two years. The cleanup work is ongoing. State officials billed the program as a way to keep oil workers employed when the pandemic prompted a downturn in their industry, as well as a means to address the growing number of wells producers had abandoned.

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State Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said the state initially overestimated how quickly it could complete reclamation work during colder fall and winter weather. He said the additional funds available through the infrastructure bill President Joe Biden signed into law earlier this month could help North Dakota address the unfinished work.