Polluter Pay Federation’s Mark Dorin said it comes as no surprise that Premier Danielle Smith’s controversial oil well cleanup bailout plan is getting publicly thrashed.
“Anyone who understands how oil and gas royalties and how oil and gas cleanup laws work in Alberta are shocked that anyone would propose RStar,” said Dorin.
“I’m not shocked at the widespread opposition to RStar at all,” he said, citing the previous name for a program the UCP government now calls the Liability Management Incentive Program.
“What I’m surprised at is it took so long. RStar is clearly a scam.”
Polluter Pay Federation was created with the goal of holding the Alberta government to account by following its own laws by ensuring companies pay for cleaning up their sites.
Seeing the pushback against the premier’s plans is encouraging.
“We worked really hard with no money to try to bring this to public awareness,” said Dorin, who lives in Red Deer and has 45 years of experience in the oil and gas industry.
NDP energy critic Kathleen Ganley also used the word “scam” on Friday to describe the program that would hand up to $100 million in royalty credits to energy companies to encourage them to clean up old and abandoned wells — which they are required to do by law.
Ganley cited a Scotiabank report that said the four biggest beneficiaries of the program would be energy companies that made a combined $5 billion in net profits in the last quarter.
Handing out royalty breaks to an industry that is making record profits and has already benefited from corporate tax breaks would “squander” the energy price boom and would be fiscally irresponsible, said Ganley in a news conference.
The premier has the wrong priorities and royalty dollars are meant to be invested in the province’s future, she said.
Scotiabank said the royalty program violated “core capitalist principles,” including that cleanup should be paid for by the polluter. It also had the potential to generate negative public sentiment toward the sector, said the bank’s analysts.
Dorin said opposition to the royalty program is becoming increasingly widespread and includes many conservatives.
“There are lots of ideological conservatives who don’t think that corporate welfare is right at any time. This is the biggest corporate welfare proposal proposed in Alberta history by far.
“It’s totally illegal. Polluter pay is firmly entrenched law in Alberta.”
On Thursday, the premier defended the program, saying the government shares responsibility for the cleanup because many practices previously approved by previous governments are no longer acceptable.
“We think there’s a joint obligation, especially for the wells, because environmental rules changed over time.”
Smith said it’s time to try something different because previous attempts to clean up Alberta’s 170,000 abandoned wells have not worked.
—With files from The Canadian Press