Los Angeles officials joined U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland Friday to discuss opportunities through the new infrastructure bill to fund the remediation of Los Angeles’ idle oil wells.

There are a total of 5,000 oil wells identified statewide eligible for a portion of the $4.7 billion in remediation funding through the infrastructure bill, according to Uduak-Joe Ntuk, California’s Oil and Gas Supervisor. His agency, the California Geologic Energy Management Division, is working to submit an application for the funding. The state will be competing with about 30 other states for portions of the funds, he said.

Haaland noted that Los Angeles County has “one of the highest concentrations of oil and gas wells of any city in the entire country, with some recent estimates suggesting that 500,000 people in L.A. live within half a mile of a well.”

“I’ve spent the day seeing firsthand how legacy pollution impacts people in the neighborhoods they live in. Kids who are relegated to having baseball practice next to oil pump jacks and gas wells, children who have grown up with bloody noses and the loss of the adults in their lives to cancer,” Haaland said.

“These wells can have serious impacts on the health and well-being of the community and the planet, from contaminating groundwater to seeping toxic chemicals and methane gases. That’s not acceptable,” she added.

Los Angeles County has about 1,400 wells identified for potential remediation funding. Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who chairs the City Council’s Energy, Climate change, Environmental Justice and River Committee, said the city will submit a “very detailed plan” to the state on remediating its wells.

Orphaned wells can leak hydrocarbons and methane, and remediation funding would allow the state to cut the wellheads off, fill the wells with cement and remove tanks, vessels and pipelines. After that, the soil would be cleaned and tested. The remediation process can cost as little as $15,000 for individual wells in rural areas and as much as $500,000 for wells in urban areas like Los Angeles, which are typically older, Ntuk said.

“It’s a unique opportunity and arguably one of the largest investments in the environment in a generation,” Ntuk said. “We’ll be able to reduce methane emissions from these well, we’ll be able to protect groundwater, we’re also going to be able to create local jobs that pay well.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti joined Haaland, Ntuk, O’Farrell and Councilman Gil Cedillo at Vista Hermosa Park, a roughly 10-acre park that reopened in 2008 after several idle wells within the park were remediated.

Garcetti said the city would apply for the federal remediation funding frequently to address the rest of its idle wells.

“I think we’re so used to being down on ourselves that we forget to celebrate when something historic, with Republican and Democratic support, passes. It’s not just important for D.C., it’s important for Echo Park, it’s important for Temple-Beaudry or Vista Hermosa,” Garcetti said.

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