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Ohio’s Methane Mitigation Boom: Cutting Emissions and Creating Jobs

This blog is part of our “Cut Methane” series.

Building a Workforce Pipeline for the Future

As applications open for the federal government’s American Climate Corps, Ohio is similarly poised for major employment growth in the climate sector. Between the recent EPA methane ruling and incoming federal funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, Ohio is one of several states researchers predict will create a methane mitigation job boom. A February 2024 Ohio River Valley Institute (ORVI) report estimates thousands of direct jobs can be created in Ohio to both carry out EPA methane emissions regulations and decommission old oil and gas wells. The report further outlines what Ohio can do now to bolster a sustainable economy of the future.

Estimated Direct Jobs from Active Oil and Gas Wells:

According to the report, there are 33,654 active wells in Ohio. The U.S. EPA’s methane rule requires monitoring and maintenance of these wells. It also requires replacement and abatement of pneumatic controllers, compressor stations, and storage tanks for operations to comply.

Source: ORVI

ORVI estimates Ohio needs between 2,290 and 2,735 direct jobs to meet these requirements.

Source: ORVI

Estimated Direct Jobs from Decommissioning Oil and Gas Wells:

Potentially more impactful to creating a sustainable economy, though, is the job creation and methane emissions reduction from decommissioning oil and gas wells. Decommissioning Ohio’s estimated 125,702 unplugged wells could create over 31,000 job-years, resulting in nearly 2,500 direct jobs according to the ORVI 2024 report.

These estimates include both “orphaned wells” — those without an owner — and “stripper wells” — those that produce low amounts of oil. Stripper wells produce about 0.4% of gas in the U.S. annually but emit nearly 11% of our country’s annual methane emissions.

According to another ORVI report published in June 2023, the estimated methane emitted from unplugged, abandoned oil and gas wells in the Ohio River Valley is equivalent to the greenhouse gasses emitted by 383,000 cars or roughly 2 million pounds of coal burned in one year.

Fortunately for Ohio, state leaders won’t have to reinvent the wheel as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources already has one of the largest orphan well programs in the nation. And, over $366 million is headed our way to continue decommissioning this outdated, unsafe, and polluting fossil fuel infrastructure.

 A direct job is that which replaces or installs methane mitigation equipment as well as the ongoing maintenance, leak-detection, and repair needs, whereas an indirect job is associated with essential services and production of goods that are created as a result of the direct jobs. Examples of indirect jobs include upstream manufacturing, financial and insurance services, and logistics and transportation. ORVI’s job estimates are only for direct jobs and don’t include the indirect job creation.

However, there is still much work to be done. With our country’s current pace and workforce, it would take an estimated 895 years to plug the abandoned wells. Furthermore, jobs extracting oil and gas from the land — known as “upstream” oil and gas jobs — have steeply declined. The Appalachian region alone has lost over 20,000 upstream oil and gas jobs in the last decade.

Source: ORVI
Source: ORVI

The Beginning of the End for Methane Pollution: What Ohio Needs to Cash in on the Methane Mitigation Job Boom

It is important to note that this is just the beginning of the Midwest’s, and specifically Ohio’s methane mitigation jobs boom. The U.S. EPA methane rule has just been inked into the Federal Register. The federal dollars are beginning to trickle out.

While we await the state implementation plan to come out in 2026, let’s take a look at what’s needed for the region to take advantage of this industry boom and create safe, family sustaining jobs in Ohio.

  • Labor Unions: Unions are ideal entities to foster the methane mitigation industry boom as these jobs can be difficult to outsource. Unions elevate wages, benefits, and safety standards for members, positively impacting local communities. They advocate for workers’ rights, promote policies like minimum wage increases, and offer apprenticeship programs, addressing skilled labor shortages.
  • Prevailing Wage: Federal grants for cleaning up orphaned wells and wells sites require prevailing wages, which define the basic hourly rates of employees’ wages in the same region. Prevailing wages ensure fair compensation, safety standards, and quality in public projects, fostering local economy, fair competition, and equal pay.
  • Equitable Labor Policies and Practices: Smart policies such as registered apprentice program participation, responsible bidder conditions, and a strong safety and health culture can ensure taxpayer value, quality work, local fund retention, and skilled worker growth from federal grants.

We can also look for solutions in other states that model good workforce development programs, like Pennsylvania and California:

  • Commonwealth Workforce Transformation Program in Pennsylvania: In August 2023, the Governor of Pennsylvania signed a first-in-the-nation job training program and the largest investment in workforce training in Pennsylvania history. The program will invest $400 million in federal funding to support as many as 10,000 new jobs.
  • California High Road Training Partnership (HRTP): As part of the California Workforce Development Board, the HRTP is driving economic resilience, fighting inequality, and confronting climate change through regional skill strategies. Recently, it launched an initiative to cap oil and gas wells, empowering communities for sustainable growth through training apprentices and upskilling journeypersons on well plugging projects.

The job potential in Ohio methane emission reduction is tremendous. With an influx of federal investment and new regulations, collaboration among policymakers, workforce agencies, businesses, and skilled trades is vital for job creation. The estimated 159,356 total wells in Ohio highlights the need for unionized, quality jobs and supportive policies to not only boost our economy but spur Ohio’s transition to a greener economy of the future.

Take Action to Support the U.S. EPA’s Methane Rule

Make sure to follow the Ohio Environmental Council for updates on methane regulation and how state leaders plan to implement these rules in Ohio leading up to the 2026 deadline.

Learn more about the EPA methane rule and its impact on Ohio as well Ohio’s orphan wells.