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BLM Plan Outlines Aggressive, Flexible Legacy Well Clean-Up Priorities, Actions

ANCHORAGE — As part of its continuing commitment to protect public safety and Alaska’s environment, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Anchorage today released a draft plan outlining priorities and actions it will take in the near-term to plug and clean up legacy wells in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A). The BLM is releasing the draft plan to cooperators for review and has posted it online at http://www.blm.gov/ak.

“We recognize the importance of cleaning up these well sites. This plan lays out an aggressive strategy to address some of the highest priority wells,” said BLM Alaska State Director Bud Cribley. “Full remediation of the wells that the BLM has inherited will require tremendous resources over the coming years, but the BLM is committed to working with the state and villages to get the job done. I want to thank Senators Murkowski and Begich for their leadership in continuing to draw attention to this important issue.”

The plan, titled the 2013 Legacy Wells Strategic Plan, is based on a thorough site-by-site assessment of each well site.  Of the 136 wells drilled between 1944 and 1982 by the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), more than half require no further action because they have been remediated or pose no threat to the public or environment. An additional 18 wells are in use by the USGS as part of climate change monitoring in the Arctic. The remaining 50 wells will, according to assessments conducted by the BLM, require various levels of additional cleanup work.

The strategic plan also identifies 16 priority wells for clean-up, including some that pose high risks to the surface. For example, three well sites on the Simpson Peninsula where solid waste was left behind by the U.S. Navy, including half barrels and other drums submerged in oil seeps, are identified as priority sites for clean-up.

Since 2002, the federal government has spent nearly $86 million plugging 18 legacy wells and cleaning the surface at priority sites. 

The exploratory wells were initially drilled by the U.S. Navy and the USGS to gather geologic data or to identify petroleum reserves. In 1982, the BLM inherited the responsibility to assess, and if necessary, plug and clean up wells and surface sites.

In addition to the 2013 Legacy Wells Strategic Plan, the BLM will release its final Legacy Wells Summary Report 2013 update containing the comprehensive site-by-site inventory and risk assessment of 116 wells and core tests that remain under BLM jurisdiction.

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