Report: Orphan Well Plugging Program Could Create 120,000 Jobs

Tue, August 04, 2020

A new report from Columbia University and Resources for the Future found a potential federal government proposal to plug 500,000 orphan wells would result in up to 120,000 additional jobs. The potential program follows innovative state programs aimed at both the reclamation of orphan wells and putting oil and natural gas workers back to work.

As the country seeks to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, a federal orphan well plugging program would be another example of the ongoing investment in our economic recovery. The program in the study has the potential to create over 100,000 jobs in order to adequately identify, prioritize, plug and reclaim the wells and areas surrounding the well site. These jobs would help the hardest hit areas, like Texas, since oil and natural gas workers already have all the skills necessary to plug orphan wells.

Daniel Raimi, a public policy researcher and co-author of the report, told The New Orleans Advocate:

“Plugging wells is a win-win opportunity that would provide good work for people negatively affected by the downturn in the economy and provide environmental benefits.”

The study isn’t the only one that found plugging orphan wells promises job creation - the Center for American Progress estimated that a $2 billion orphan well cleanup fund in the United States could support 14,000 to 24,000 jobs in energy-producing states. And in June, the Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma asked that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act include earmarked funds to plug orphan wells, restoring jobs for oilfield service workers.   

The report follows calls from both sides of the aisle to put oil and natural gas workers back to work. In fact, even Michael Bloomberg – former New York City mayor and Sierra Club funder – endorsed a similar plan in an op-ed in Bloomberg. Oil and gas advocates have endorsed the idea as well. Gifford Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, supports a federal stimulus for well plugging:

“There are multiple layers of benefits. It gives the opportunity to put people back to work and money back in our communities … and it continues to improve our environment.”

Proposals to fund the plugging of old oil and gas wells are gaining support across America. These programs would be an effective way to utilize the skills of oil and gas workers who have been affected by the economic fallout of the pandemic and low oil prices. Proposals of this scale are not only great for our environment; they also would enable oil and gas workers put our skills to work and our state and country to recover.

Learn more about orphan wells here.