Federal government targets 50 legacy wells for clean-up

Iko Bay Well

State Presses BLM on Legacy Well Issue

Across the North Slope, there are over a hundred oil wells drilled by the federal government that are no longer operational. At some sites, there are abandoned drums sunk in oil seeps; other wells have gas leaking from them. On Wednesday, the Bureau of Land Management released a draft plan identifying 50 of these so-called “legacy wells” for clean up.

Bud Cribley directs the BLM’s Alaska office. He says the plan is to start with the 16 wells in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska that pose the greatest risk to human and environmental health.

“It’s going to take time, but we are committed to accomplishing that clean-up.”

Cribley says that the timeline and the budget for the well clean-up are still being figured out, and that sequestration may affect the pace. Still, it’s possible that work on wells near Barrow could start as early as next year.

Of the remaining NPR-A wells, BLM has determined that 68 do not pose any risk to humans or the environment and that 18 are still in use.

Environmental groups like the Wilderness Society described the draft plan as a positive step forward, but a number of Alaska lawmakers say it doesn’t go far enough. Rep. Charisse Millette, a Republican from Anchorage, says she’s happy that the federal government wants to clean up some of the wells but that more should be targeted. She also has concerns about a recent proposal to use some of the revenue-sharing payments that Alaska gets for NPR-A oil to help pay for remediation.

“The BLM has not really come out with anything other than what they’ve been doing, patting the state on the head and then pulling our revenues away from us.”

Alaska’s congressional delegation also opposes the idea of making Alaska pay for remediation, since the wells were drilled by the federal government on federal land. Sen. Lisa Murkowski describing such a plan as “dead on arrival.”

The clean-up plan is expected to be finalized in the coming weeks, after key stakeholders get a chance to comment.

Map of identified wells included in the plan

Recent headlines

  • dollar bill money macro

    Per diems driving special session costs

    Lawmakers who represent areas outside Juneau receive $295 for each day of the special session. Juneau lawmakers receive $221.25 per day.
  • Caroline Hoover proudly pins an Alaska Territorial Guard medal on the front of her father's parka during an official discharge ceremony held Oct. 17 in Kipnuk, Alaska. David Martin is one of three surviving members of the Alaska Territorial Guard's Kipnuk unit. A total of 59 residents of Kipnuk, who volunteered to defend Alaska in the event of a Japanese invasion during World War II, were recognized during the ceremony. Kipnuk residents who served with the Alaska Territorial Guard from 1942-1947 were members of a U.S. Army component organized in response to attacks by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor. (Photo by Jerry Walton, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs cultural resource manager and native liaison/public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

    16 Alaska Territorial Guard vets to be honored in Anchorage

    Sixteen veterans of the Alaska Territorial Guard will be honored at a discharge ceremony today. Four of them are from Western Alaska.
  • Don Andrew Roguska looks out from an upstairs window of an historic Juneau house he bought in 2016 to restore. Zoning regulations have prevented him from rebuilding in the same style. (Photo by Jacob Resneck/KTOO)

    Juneau mulls relaxing zoning rules for historic houses

    The historic houses in Juneau and Douglas were predominately built by miners and fishermen long before today's zoning was put into place. That's prevented homeowners from restoring or rebuilding homes in these neighborhoods without running into conflict with the city's zoning laws -- a temporary fix may be on the way.
  • Young joins Afghanistan war skeptics in Congress

    Alaska U.S. Rep. Don Young wants to know why Americans are still fighting in Afghanistan. He has co-sponsored a bill that would end funding for the war in a year, unless the president and Congress affirm the need for it.
X