KCC Awarded $25 Million Federal Grant to Plug Abandoned Wells

Topeka, KS– The Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) has been awarded a $25 million initial federal grant to help plug abandoned wells in the state. The initial grant is part of $1.15 billion earmarked under the Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to help states remediate abandoned oil and gas wells. A total of $4.7 billion has been allocated over the next eight years to plug abandoned wells in the U.S. The KCC is eligible to receive another $33.6 million in future formula grant funding.

“These federal grants provide Kansas with a one-time opportunity to help address the issue of abandoned wells in Kansas while helping the economy by providing good paying jobs for several years,” said Ryan A. Hoffman, KCC Conservation Division Director.

The KCC plans to use the initial $25 million grant to pay for eight projects involving the plugging of more than 2300 abandoned wells over the next two to three years.  Four projects are located in Eastern Kansas. The other four are located in Central and Western Kansas. A map showing the locations of the projects and number of wells in each can be viewed here.

A well is considered “abandoned” when it has been permanently taken out of production, is not properly plugged to prevent possible air or groundwater pollution, and the rightful legal owner cannot be determined or located to take responsibility.

While the federal grants will help reduce the total number of abandoned wells in Kansas, they are insufficient to address the entire problem.  The KCC will still rely on industry generated funds to plug the thousands of wells remaining after the federal program expires.

More than 11,000 abandoned wells have been plugged since the establishment of the state well plugging fund in 1995. Oil and gas drilling in Kansas began in the 1860’s. Record keeping by early operators was not as precise as it is today. It is not uncommon for older abandoned wells to be discovered by landowners who were unaware they existed.

“These federal grant funds will provide important assistance in plugging abandoned wells in Kansas. However, to adequately protect Kansas fresh water resources, it will also be necessary to continue funding the plugging of abandoned wells with state well plugging fund resources provided by oil and gas industry fee assessments,” said Dwight D. Keen, Chair of the KCC.

Sign up for the KCLY Digital Newspaper, The Regional