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Michigan's abandoned oil and gas wells to get plugged up with $25 million federal grant

Carol M. Highsmith
U.S. Library of Congress
A small, rusting oil pump called a "pumpjack" still pulls, up and down, hour after hour in rural Holmes County, Ohio

Michigan has been plugging away at plugging abandoned oil and gas wells for decades. A new grant from the U.S. Department of Interior will help boost the state’s efforts.

Michigan has 447 documented orphan wells, which can leach harmful chemicals into waterways and release toxic vapors.

The state typically works with a million-dollar annual budget to plug up wells and has closed 400 wells over the last 30 years. But a new $25 million federal grant should ramp up progress.

Scott Dean with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy said the state can now hire additional staff and start more cleanup projects.

“We're really pleased to have this infrastructure funding, and we're committed to cleaning up as many of these oil and gas wells, allowing these lands to go back into productive use," Dean said. "We're quite excited about this project, it's really gonna help jumpstart our program.”

Dean said no goals or timeline have been developed yet. He said the state hopes to close “as many wells as possible.”

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