Legislation that passed Congress today will allocate $50 million to clean up the 130 oil and gas wells that were drilled and abandoned by the federal government in the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska.
Senator Lisa Murkowski helped negotiate the Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act, which is expected to generate around $500 million in revenue over the next 10 years. Within the measure, she was able to insert language that guaranteed a portion of the money from the helium reserve sale would go toward the clean up.
Murkowski says it’s an important step toward closing up the legacy wells.
“That’s huge for us; that is absolutely huge because you can assign priorities and say it’s important that we clean it up, but until you have the dollars to make it happen, it doesn’t happen,” Murkowski said. “The administration has been tough to deal with on this, so I worked very, very hard to make sure that with the revenues from the helium sale, we could address this blight on our environment up north.”
The $50 million will be distributed over the next six years.
Because many federal priorities are competing for a decreasing amount of funds, Murkowski says previously, she was only able to find small amounts of money for the clean up.
“When you just ran the numbers from a very general perspective, it was gonna be 100+ years to get through this, which was absolutely not an acceptable approach,” she said.
Even though the $50 million won’t be enough to clean up all the wells, Murkowski says it should be enough to start making a dent.
President Obama is expected to sign the measure into law.