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BLM Outlines Aggressive, Flexible Strategy to Clean Up Legacy Wells

Plan Identifies Priority Wells, Details Near-Term Actions

ANCHORAGE — As part of its continuing commitment to protect public safety and Alaska’s environment, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today released the final strategic 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).

A draft of the plan was released in May 2013 for review and has since been finalized. The final plan is available online at www.blm.gov/ak/legacywells.

“We appreciate the feedback we received from the State of Alaska, the North Slope Borough and other stakeholders,” said Bud Cribley, BLM-Alaska State Director. “While this final plan lays out an aggressive strategy to address 16 of our highest priority wells, we continue to work with our partners to determine the next steps on the remaining wells requiring remediation.”

Cribley said full remediation of the wells the BLM has inherited will require tremendous resources over the coming years, but the BLM is committed to getting the job done. “I want to thank Senators Murkowski and Begich for their continued support on this important issue,” he said.

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 the 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, surface clean up at three well sites on the Simpson Peninsula, where solid waste was left behind by the U.S. Navy, could happen as early as next field season.

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. The BLM inherited the responsibility to assess, and if necessary, plug and clean up wells and surface sites in 1982, when administration of the NPR-A was transferred from the U.S. Navy to the Department of the Interior.

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