Supreme Court to tackle oil well cleanup issue

Central Alberta landowner advocates will be watching top court closely

Central Alberta landowner activists will be closely watching the Supreme Court of Canada later this month.

On Feb. 15, the country’s highest court will hear from the southern Alberta-based Action Surface Rights Association in an appeal of a decision that allows bankrupt oil and gas companies to abandon wells without having to clean them up.

The appeal of a 2016 Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench decision is being led by Alberta’s energy regulator and the Surface Rights Association is an intervener. In a case involving the bankruptcy trustee of Redwater Energy Group, the Alberta court ruled assets of bankrupt energy companies should first go to creditors not to cleanup costs.

Federal bankruptcy laws take precedence over provincial environmental regulations, the court ruled.


Orphan well cleanup loan

Orphan well appeal

Don Bester, is a long-time landowner rights advocate with the 1,400-member strong Alberta Surface Rights Group. It is a sister organization to the Surface Rights Association and shares its concerns about orphan wells.

“There’s a lot of our members who are owed money now through these bankruptcy companies,” said Bester, who lives in Innisfail.

“What’s happening is all these large corporations are spinning off their weak assets, like wells that are not productive, and they’re registered for abandonment.”

New companies often come in to get what they can out of the weak wells before declaring bankruptcy.

As it stands, landowners cannot become secured creditors for oil and gas wells on their property, said Bester. That means they are well down the list when a bankrupt company’s assets are doled out. Alberta Energy Regulator, which collects money through licence fees, is also in line behind the banks.

“Something’s got to change here, whether it’s the Bankruptcy Act or whatever,” he said.

The Alberta Energy Regulator is involved because it has seen an increasing number of companies going into bankruptcy and avoiding costly clean-up costs during the recent oilpatch downturn. The inventory has soared of the Orphan Well Association, an independent group set up to reclaim abandoned well sites. Last year, the province loaned the association $235 million to help out.

Bester said he has no idea what will happen in Ottawa. The Supreme Court cannot change legislation but can only make recommendations.

Changing bankruptcy law would have to be a political decision.

Even if the appeal is not successful it will be useful to get the issue out into the public eye, he said.

“It’s a really good cause to try to get something changed,” he said.

“Is it going to change? Your guess is as good as mine.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Plenty of Family Day fun lined up in local communities

Choices abound in Red Deer thanks to 2019 Canada Winter Games

Blackfalds reviewing proposal to open its own registry office

Town administration expected to report back to council in two weeks

Alix resident captures beams of light near Lacombe

Lacombe, Blackfalds, Red Deer photos have since gone viral around the world

UPDATED: Winter Games flame arrives in Red Deer

Roly McLenahan torch has arrived

Ready, set, go!

2019 Canada Winter Games kicks off Friday night with Opening Ceremonies

WATCH: Canada Games Hall of Honour inductees offer advice to athletes

The inductees were honoured at the Sheraton Hotel in Red Deer Thursday

Games athletes making themselves at home at RDC

Red Deer College’s campus will be home for the athletes during the 2019 Canada Winter Games

Alix resident captures beams of light near Lacombe

Lacombe, Blackfalds, Red Deer photos have since gone viral around the world

Welcome message from the mayor

On behalf of Red Deer city council, the City of Red Deer… Continue reading

Canada avoids world’s top players in opening round of Davis Cup

MADRID — Canada has avoided a confrontation with any of the current… Continue reading

Canada’s McKeever swaps skis for tuxedo, nominated for Laureus World Sport Award

CALGARY — From a glitzy awards ceremony in Monaco to the nordic… Continue reading

Scrutiny, family woes pile pressure on pregnant Meghan

LONDON — When Meghan Markle became engaged to Prince Harry, the American… Continue reading

It’s a girl! Berlin zoo’s baby polar bear has 1st checkup

Berlin’s Tierpark zoo says its latest baby polar bear is “a perky,… Continue reading

Local Sports: Kaitlan Linnell achieves hockey dream

Coming up through Red Deer minor hockey Kaitlan Linnell had a dream… Continue reading

Most Read