Wednesday, February 21, 2024

DEP Set To Receive $2 Billion+ In Federal Funds Over Next Decade+ For Oil & Gas Well Plugging, Clean Energy, Climate Resiliency, Clean Water

On February 21,
Louie Krak, DEP’s Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator briefed DEP’s Environmental Justice Advisory Board on the more than $2 billion in federal funding the agency expects to receive over the next decade or more to address legacy pollution problems-- conventional oil and gas well plugging, clean energy, climate resiliency and clean water.

            “The mandate of our office is to leverage as much federal funding that's coming down the pike from the Infrastructure Investment in Jobs Act [DEP webpage], which I'll refer to as IIJA, and the Inflation Reduction Act  or IRA [DEP webpage].

“These two pieces of legislation have historic amounts of funding available for climate work, clean energy, clean water, dealing with legacy pollution issues, really a lot of money and a lot of opportunity. 

“So, we want to be sure that we're not leaving any dollars on the table when it comes to the opportunities and that we're bringing as much to Pennsylvania to drive forward transformative projects that we possibly can,” said Krak.

Conventional Oil & Gas Well Plugging.

“So, under the IIJA, when it's all said and done, DEP will receive upwards and probably more than $400 million to plug orphan and abandoned wells that are currently leaking methane and hazardous air pollutants into the implement. 

“And in 2023, which is the first year that we had funding available to implement these well plugging projects, 148 wells were plugged and 124 of those were plugged with the funding from the IIJA.

“So far in 2024, we're up to 34 wells plugged, 24 of those from the IIJA funding. 

“DEP's Office of Oil and Gas Management applied for their first tranche of $76 million to continue the well plugging work. This funding will come every year for the next four years. So, we're looking at $305 million over the next four years.

“And once that money hits our account, DEP will have 60 days to establish the Orphan Well Plugging Grant program, which is a statutory requirement. 

“But grants will be made available to anyone who can prove that they have the equipment to plug a well. 

“Which means cities, local governments, even nonprofits, if they're partnering with a well plugging company and they have wells in their community that they want plugged, they can apply for a grant to do so through this program.”

“Another bucket of well plugging funding is coming from the Inflation Reduction Act, and it's called the Methane Emissions Reduction Program, or MERP, which is one of the more fun acronyms I get to say. 

“And DEP is receiving over $44 million through MERP to provide funding for the plugging of marginal conventional wells.”

“Our program is focused on wells that are low producing and toward the end of their lives to help operators plug those so that they don't end up becoming abandoned and taxpayer responsibility to plug those.”

“And there's another $1 billion, billion with B, coming down the pike. That's a competitive pot of funding that will have the opportunity to receive additional or compete for additional funds to monitor and mitigate methane emissions and legacy air pollution from oil and gas assets, including but not limited to margin.”

Visit DEP’s Oil and Gas Program Bipartisan Infrastructure Law webpage for more information.

Community Change Grants

“This is $2 billion coming from the Environmental Protection Agency across two award tracks. 

“So, track one is called the Community Driven Investments for Change. And this is meant to fund projects that improve environmental, climate, and resilience conditions affecting vulnerable communities.

“And at the federal level, the term they use is disadvantaged communities, which is not the term I prefer to use, but it's coming from the federal program.”

“And track two focuses more on engaging vulnerable communities and government processes that advance environmental and climate justice. And that's expected to be 20 projects ranging from $1 to $3 million.”

“In track one, EPA is anticipating funding 150 projects. But the projects have to be between  $10 and $20 million, which are huge projects.”

“EPA is looking for projects, again that increase community resilience through climate action activities or reduce local pollution to improve public health. 

“These projects have to center on meaningful community engagement, build community strength, and re-prioritize populations and maximize integration across projects. 

“And, in addition to that, they should be addressing either indoor air quality issues, outdoor air quality issues, or clean water infrastructure issues to reduce pollution exposure.”

“So, some of the different types of things you might think about that would fit this funding opportunity of green infrastructure and nature-based solutions, mobility and transportation options for preventing air pollution, energy efficient, healthy and resilient housing and buildings. 

“You could do a microgrid installation for Community Energy Resilience. You could do a brownfield redevelopment project or a workforce development program for occupations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants.”

“This funding is limited to a partnership that's led by at least two organizations, and one of them has to be a community-based organization.”

The funding is only available through November 21 of this year.

Energy Efficiency Funding

“There are two pots of funding, one called the Energy Efficiency Revolving Loan Fund, and the other Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Program

“Those names are not super important, but between those two programs, DEP is receiving $6.3 million.

“ And they've developed a framework to utilize those funds in concert and braid them together to maximize the impact. 

“So, the Energy Programs Office is creating a new program out of these two funding streams called the Municipalities Opportunities for Retrofits and Energy Efficiency, which is a mouthful.”

“This is a financial assistance program for municipalities that will offer credit enhancement and various financial products to help fund energy efficiency retrofits. And the program, the MOREE program is expected to launch early this spring.”

Climate Pollution Reduction Grants

“There is $5 billion total available nationally. Comes in two pots of funding, $250 million for planning. And the planning is all around doing in-depth climate action plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and co pollutants. 

“And the part two is the implementation phase, which is $4.6 billion to fund projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“So, DEP has received a $3 million planning grant. And we are coming up on completing our first deliverable, which is a Priority Climate Action Plan, or PCAP, that focuses primarily on reducing greenhouse gas production measures to reduce emissions in Pennsylvania's industrial sector. 

“Which is our top emitting sector statewide responsible for about 30% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in Pennsylvania.”

“The Priority Climate Action Plan is due March 1st, and we're on track to submit it by that deadline. 

“And the greenhouse gas reduction measures that will be included in that priority plan, which is more focused, include industrial electrification, efficiency and process emissions, low carbon fuels, carbon capture utilization and storage, onsite renewable energy, fugitive emissions reductions, net zero electricity grid, building electrification and efficiency, electric and alternative fuel vehicles, and public and active transportation.”

“And we came up with that final list as a result of doing in-depth stakeholder engagement back in November and December.”

“DEP plans to submit a $500 million implementation grant application, which I have been leading that effort, focused on reducing industrial sector emissions in Pennsylvania. 

“So, our idea is to create a statewide industrial decarbonization incentive program called Reducing Industrial Sector Emissions in Pennsylvania or RISE PA.”   Read more here.

“DEP issued the request for information back at the end of December to assist in the development of the RISE PA program.”

The final program design is due April 1, and Krak said DEP is on track to meet that deadline.

Home Efficiency, Electrification Programs

“Last two quick things. The Home Efficiency Rebate program, or HER, and Home Electrification and Appliance Rebate program, or HEAR.”

“​​Between these two programs, we're getting $259 million over the next 10 years.” 

“These are programs that will be primarily low income programs that will require thoughtful program designed and expensive consumer protections to offer energy efficiency retrofits for multifamily housing units, as well as the Electrical Appliance Rebate program will offer likely point of sale rebates for low and middle income consumers who need to purchase things like new water heater or a sort of appliance.”

“We want to make sure that the most affordable option is also the most energy efficient option for them through these programs. So, they're very complicated. The application process is very complicated for both of them.”

“The deadline is not until January 31st, 2025, but DEP is actively working on this, and expects to apply for and open those programs in Q4 of this year.”

Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund 

“Lastly, the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. DEP had applied for $250 million for the Solar for All project, or with Solar for All competition, which is to provide access to solar for low and middle income folks in Pennsylvania. 

“And we anticipate hearing whether or not we've received an award for that next month.

Abandoned Mine Reclamation

Krak did not mention it in his presentation, but Pennsylvania will receive $244.9 million annually for the next 15 years, or $3.7 billion, from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure law to reclaim abandoned mine lands and treat mine discharges.

Visit DEP’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Abandoned Mine Land Program webpage for more information.

Clean Water Infrastructure

The federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also provides funding for wastewater, drinking water, lead pipe replacement, stormwater and other water infrastructure projects through programs administered by the PA Infrastructure Investment Authority.

Since 2022, the federal program has provided over $782.9 million in Pennsylvania for water infrastructure projects.  $200 million in funding was announced February 20.  Read more here.

Visit PennVEST’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law webpage for more information.

Climate-Friendly Farm Practices

Through the federal Inflation Reduction Act, USDA farm conservation programs received additional funding to support climate-friendly farming practices and additional conservation technical assistance.

Visit the USDA Inflation Reduction Act Investments webpage and the Natural Resources Conservation Service- PA website for more.

Electric Vehicle Infrastructure

Pennsylvania will also receive $171.5 million over the next five years to expand the infrastructure for electric vehicle charging through the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program.

The program is funded through the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Visit PennDOT’s National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure webpage to learn more.

Visit the DEP Environmental Justice Advisory Board webpage for more information on environmental justice initiatives in DEP.  Questions should be directed to Jennifer McLuckie, at  or (717) 772-5633.

[Posted: February 21, 2024]  PA Environment Digest

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