- Associated Press - Saturday, June 20, 2020

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - State regulators have approved a new program to plug North Dakota’s abandoned oil wells.

Work is set to begin July 16 under the program approved by the Industrial Commission on Friday.

The Bismarck Tribune reports the state plans to use $66 million in federal coronavirus aid to plug and clean up at least 239 abandoned wells and other oilfield sites.

Regulators expect to return 2,200 acres to agricultural use, mainly in the older northern oilfields of Bottineau, Renville and Ward counties but also in western North Dakota.

“Our goal by the end of the year is to have topsoil on every one of these sites, either ready for crops to be seeded in spring or native grasses already seeded and ready for the fall rains,” State Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms told the commission. “It’s going to be an enormous process.”



The three-member commission, chaired by Gov. Doug Burgum, approved orders Friday to plug the sites, which are operated by 50 oilfield companies.

Between the plugging and reclamation portions of the program, Helms said North Dakota officials hope to keep about 1,000 oilfield workers employed full time for six months. He added that about 9,500 workers in the oil and gas sector have filed for unemployment this spring.

The state will start accepting bids for the work on Monday.

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