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Interior Sec. Deb Haaland and oil wells - during the Coronavirus pandemic.

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Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland wants communities to understand the positive impact of the bipartisan infrastructure legislation on addressing longstanding environmental inequities. As part of her mandate in the Department of the Interior, Haaland is committed to leveraging the funding outlined in the bipartisan infrastructure bill to help clean up legacy pollution.

During remarks at the GreenLatinos Winter National Summit, Haaland shared how the bilateral infrastructure legislation would help address legacy pollution in historically marginalized communities. According to Haaland, the legislation helped further the Department of the Interior’s commitments to equity, justice and inclusion.  

Speaking with NewsOne, she described a collaborative approach between the federal government and states to address persisting funding gaps. Haaland has also emphasized the disproportionate impact on communities of color. 

Haaland says that one example of the legislation’s impact is funding to address orphaned oil and gas wells. Over $4 billion has been earmarked to address orphaned well sites across the country. As the first Indigenous person to lead the Department of Interior, Haaland said that remediating the impact on Black and Brown communities remains a significant priority for her Department. 

 “I took a trip to California; orphan wells are in people’s backyards. It’s astounding,” Haaland said. “They’re in tightly knit communities where Black and Brown communities whose children breathe the air every day. Those are areas that we want to clean up.” 

An agency memo on the clean-up of orphaned gas wells noted that states would have the opportunity to receive an initial grant of $25 million for plugging and otherwise remediating well sites.

The outlet Al Día previously reported there are millions of abandoned wells around the country. Nearly half of the estimated 9 million people who live near an abandoned oil and gas well are people of color.  

Funding available to states will address the legacy of abandoned wells and end persisting environmental racism. Haaland said the administration is on track to make sure states have the resource and support they need and give impacted communities the tools and supports necessary for climate mitigation adaptation measures.

She said there will also be major strides toward clean energy jobs and potentially wholesale environmental change.  

“The bipartisan infrastructure law. will do a lot to invest and build that clean energy economy, that will create well-paying union jobs in those Black and Brown communities and across the country,” Haaland said. “We feel like we’re on a trajectory with a bipartisan infrastructure law that will really make some wholesale change.” 


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