Federal Government Looking at Reclaiming Abandoned Coal Mines and Gas Wells as Job Creation

Two new reports focusing on Pennsylvania and nearby states find that reclaiming abandoned coal mines and plugging abandoned oil and gas wells, could create thousands of jobs.

The research, done by the Ohio River Valley Institute (ORVI), looks at Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky, and identifies hundreds of thousands of acres of un-reclaimed coal mines, and more than a half-million abandoned oil and gas wells.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), as of September, 2018, the Commonwealth’s AML problems consisted to 5,597 individual problem areas with 33,965 individual AML features or problems. The DEP estimates the total cost of these unfunded problems at over $5 billion.

The Ohio study estimates that reclaiming abandoned coal mines sites in Pennsylvania and other states like West Virginia and Kentucky, would create thousands of jobs in fields like construction and engineering. According to ORVI estimates, reclaiming those sites would result in the creation of 7,000 direct jobs and 17,000 indirect jobs.

Likewise, plugging abandoned wells could also be an economic boon to economically starved regions of Pennsylvania. The report finds that a federal well-plugging program could create more than 15,000 jobs per year over two decades. Abandoned gas wells leak and emit methane. A concerted federal effort to plug the region’s wells could abate 71,000 metric tons of methane each year, equivalent to the yearly greenhouse gas emissions of 383,000 passenger vehicles,” the report states.

To pay for plugging for abandoned oil and gas wells, the Ohio River Valley Institute suggest scaling back fossil fuel subsidies and placing a “small fee” on oil and gas production. Speaking on behalf of the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association, Dan Weaver, said the industry, “supports all efforts to plug abandoned oil and gas wells, which is a significant challenge in Pennsylvania, given its long history of energy production.”

Congress is looking at adding $16 billion for plugging abandoned gas wells and cleaning up old coal sites in its recently announced $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

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