The bipartite REGROW law is a good way to improve the environment and create well-paying jobs
As Congress attempts to navigate multiple legislative priorities in a strongly partisan atmosphere, it’s important to remember that there are areas where broad agreement can be found.
Tim Tarpley, Workforce and Energy Technology Council
As Congress attempts to navigate multiple legislative priorities in a strongly partisan atmosphere, it’s important to remember that there are areas where broad agreement can be found. For example, the funding programs to plug and repair orphaned oil and gas wells that release greenhouse gases is an initiative with bipartisan backing and industry backing.
This project would stop greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 1.5 million cars per year while creating thousands of jobs in the country’s energy services and technology sector.
Address orphan wells. The member companies of my organization, the Energy Workforce & Technology Council, deliver energy to the world in the safest, most efficient, clean and responsible ways possible. Our sector is at the forefront of the development of technologies that will drive the energy transition. The Council represents 450 companies that employ more than 600,000 workers, manufacturers and innovators in the energy sector. Our members include large oil service companies operating around the world, energy technology companies, equipment manufacturers and small family-owned well maintenance companies that operate locally.
Our members are leading the way in addressing the critical issue of orphan wells in the United States through existing state programs. We stand ready to partner with federal lawmakers to carry out this vital task.
An exemplary company. An example of these companies is A Plus Well Services, based in Farmington, New Mexico. A Plus employs 62 people, 70% of whom are from Latin American and Native American populations. Their workforce includes recent immigrants and first generation Americans. Many of their employees do not have a high school diploma, but earn between $ 60,000 and $ 80,000 per year.
A Plus is currently working in Colorado and New Mexico, plugging orphaned wells through existing programs in those states. Company owner Randy Pacheco is confident he could quickly expand his hookup operations by hiring new employees in high-paying jobs if Congress approves funding to bolster existing public programs.
Put people back to work. There are many companies like A Plus all over the country. The average salary in the energy services industry is over $ 100,000. For people with the expertise and experience to plug these orphaned wells, the average is $ 81,000. Like A Plus, hundreds of well service companies are poised to create new jobs across the country and are excited to bring back workers who had to be laid off during the pandemic.
The energy services sector has been disproportionately affected by declining demand from COVID-19 which has triggered a dramatic and abrupt slowdown in energy production in the United States. While the industry has always had its ups and downs, this downturn has been particularly difficult. The sector has lost more than 67,000 jobs since the start of the pandemic. The men and women who have lost their jobs have the experience, skills and expertise to quickly start repairing these wells once funding becomes available. Getting these men and women back to work will benefit the environment and the economy of the communities where they live.
Proactive legislation. Regarding federal efforts to address this issue, we believe that legislation should follow the provisions of the REGROW Act of 2021, which was included in the bipartite infrastructure package. This bill would distribute money to successfully run state hookup programs already in place and encourage other states to create programs. It is important to note that the REGROW Act would provide adequate funding to tackle the true scale of the orphan well problem.
The good news is that there is a clear bipartisan consensus that we need to tackle this problem. Democrats and Republicans have proposed legislation, including Representative Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM-3) and Senators Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND). The bipartisan consensus is a good start in these politically polarized times.
Another good news is that many states have robust hookup systems in place. They just need more funding to deal with the magnitude of this problem. Rather than delaying remediation work by creating a new federal program, it makes sense to add federal funds to leverage existing state programs without adding complex federal mandates. The faster we send money to the states, the faster we can get people out on the ground to plug wells.
The bipartisan REGROW act forms the basis of a great federal initiative that will put energy workers back to work and provide a cleaner environment for the American people. The men and women of the energy services industry are ready to get back to work and support this project.
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