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Sunday, May 19, 2024

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4 dead as severe storms hit Houston, TX; Election Protection Program eases access to voting information; surge in solar installations eases energy costs for Missourians; IN makes a splash for Safe Boating Week.

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The Supreme Court rules funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is okay, election deniers hold key voting oversight positions in swing states, and North Carolina lawmakers vote to ban people from wearing masks in public.

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Americans are buying up rubber ducks ahead of Memorial Day, Nebraskans who want residential solar have a new lifeline, seven community colleges are working to provide students with a better experience, and Mississippi's "Big Muddy" gets restoration help.

Orphaned wells: Environmental, visual pollution for SW Indian Country

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Friday, April 5, 2024   

Tribal communities, including those in New Mexico, can now apply for grant funding and direct assistance to clean up orphaned oil and gas wells across Indian Country. The U.S. Department of Interior is accepting applications for $55 million meant to address plugging, remediation and reclamation of these abandoned wells, along with soil and habitat restoration.

Paul Reed, preservation archeologist with Archeology Southwest, said there are almost 3.5 million orphaned wells nationwide - and in the Southwest, they pose a significant threat to cultural resources.

"We have less in the West proportionally, but our landscapes are open, so I think the visual impacts, and the cultural impacts, the impacts to Tribes and folks living nearby, are just that much greater," he said.

A recent report by the group highlights the impact of these wells to frontline communities and sacred and cultural sites in such places as the Greater Chaco Landscape. Reed said New Mexico is home to some 2,000 abandoned wells. More than 400 are within 30 miles of national parks, including Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

Orphaned or abandoned wells are known to jeopardize public health and safety by contaminating groundwater, seeping toxic chemicals, emitting dangerous pollutants and harming wildlife. But Reed said public concern and subsequent government oversight is still relatively new.

"If these were put in more than 40 years ago now, or 45 years ago, they probably didn't have any environmental or cultural work," he continued. "A lot of the agencies hadn't really figured how they were going to actually manage those things."

Across the country, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides a total of $4.7 billion to address orphaned wells. In the program's first phase, the Interior Department awarded 40 million in grants to ten Tribes. Applications are being accepted through May 14th.


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