Gordon Rejects $5 Million From Biden To Shut Down Oil Wells

Gov. Mark Gordon said Monday he will reject $5 million from President Joe Biden’s administration to shut down certain oil wells in Wyoming.

Leo Wolfson

October 03, 20233 min read

Gordon and biden 10 2 23
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Gov. Mark Gordon doesn’t want any part of President Joe Biden’s plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by curtailing oil production.

Gordon announced Monday he will reject $5 million from the Biden administration earmarked to shut down low-volume oil wells, often referred to as stripper wells. 

The administration is using federal Inflation Reduction Act money to provide incentives to states to shut down certain oil wells.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Inflation Reduction Act provides new avenues to reduce methane emissions from the petroleum and natural gas sector through a Methane Emissions Reduction Program. The program offers $350 million to states under the umbrella of reducing methane emissions.

A stripper well is defined as producing a maximum daily average of no more than 15 barrels of oil per day or no more than 90,000 cubic feet of natural gas per day during any 12 consecutive months. According to the governor’s office, stripper wells provide about 10% of the state’s oil production and generate about $265 million annual revenue to Wyoming. 

According to the National Stripper Well Association, stripper wells make up more than 7.4% of U.S. oil production. They also produce less than 90 thousand cubic feet a day, yet account for 8.2% of U.S. natural gas production.

“This approach – concocted by D.C. bureaucrats – shows a complete disregard for the importance of this industry to Wyoming’s economy,” Gordon said in the press release. “These are wells that have, and will continue to produce, significant amounts of oil; provide jobs through hundreds of small businesses; and generate revenues for schools, the state and local government.” 

Plugging The Problem

Gordon said even without the funding, Wyoming still leads the nation in plugging abandoned and orphan wells.

As of 2014, Wyoming had about 1,200 abandoned wells, reported High Country News.

Since the coal-bed methane gas boom of the 2000s when 2,500 wells were drilled annually, Wyoming has spent about $35 million plugging orphan wells. The orphan well program is funded by bonds provided by oil and gas operators as well as a conservation tax paid on sales of oil and gas. 

A 2022 study from the Wyoming State Geological Survey found that it will take up to 144 years for the state’s aquifers to recover from the boom.

“The calculated times of recovery, which vary from 20-144 years with a mean value of 52 years, probably represent best-case estimates because the calculations assume that environmental and hydrological conditions will largely remain unchanged from those of the last decade,” the study says.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at leo@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter