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Orphaned Wells on Tribal Lands

The Indian Energy Service Center coordinates funding and program activities for Tribal orphaned wells that are provided by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The Indian Energy Service Center (IESC) serves as the Bureau Indian Affairs (BIA) office that is responsible for coordinating Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funding and program activities for Tribal orphaned well plugging and abandonment, provided under Section 40601 of the IIJA. 

Signed into law by President Biden on November 15, 2021, the IIJA defines an orphaned well as a well that is not used for an authorized purpose—such as production, injection, or monitoring—and for which no operator can be located, or the well operator is unable to plug the well and remediate and reclaim the well site. The IIJA provides up to $150 million in federal funding for the purpose of plugging orphaned wells and remediating and reclaiming orphaned well sites on Tribal lands.  

While the Department of the Interior (DOI) policy and practice is to ensure that oil and gas wells and well sites on federal and Tribal lands are plugged, remediated, and reclaimed at the end of their productive lives, some wells have become orphaned throughout the United States’ long history of oil and gas development. These orphaned wells pose risks to human health and the environment.  

The IIJA funding available to plug, remediate, and reclaim orphaned wells and well sites offers a historic opportunity to mitigate the adverse impacts and risks that orphaned wells pose on Tribal land. The IIJA provides funding to benefit-eligible Tribes via two means: 

  1. Upon successful completion of a grant application and selection by DOI, an eligible Tribe may directly receive and use grant funding to perform the plugging, remediation, and reclamation of orphaned wells on its lands, either through a Tribally owned entity or through the services of a contractor procured by the Tribe to perform the work.  
  2. Alternatively, an eligible Tribe may request that DOI perform the plugging, remediation, and reclamation of orphaned wells and well sites on its lands on the Tribe’s behalf.

Upcoming Tribal Consultation Sessions

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) is seeking feedback and recommendations from Tribal Leaders on a draft document titled "Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Sec. 40601 Orphaned Well Program, Tribal Grant Guidance, Fiscal Year 2023."

DOI's Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance (OEPC) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) are hosting online Tribal Consultations to receive input on the draft Tribal Grant guidance on September 27, 2022 and September 29, 2022 from 1:00pm-3:00pm EST.

To register for these online Tribal Consultation sessions or for more information on feedback questions and how to submit feedback outside these sessions, please visit Orphaned Well Grants Tribal Consultations.

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Additional Information

Contact Us

Indian Energy Service Center
13922 Denver West Parkway, Building 54, Suite 300
Lakewood, CO 80401
9:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. MDT, Monday–Friday

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