A $1.7 billion oil and gas well remediation and reclamation program is not creating the jobs promised, says Polluter Pays Federation. (File photo by The Canadian Press)

A $1.7 billion oil and gas well remediation and reclamation program is not creating the jobs promised, says Polluter Pays Federation. (File photo by The Canadian Press)

Tax dollars should not be used for well cleanup: industry watchdog group

Making companies pay for cleanup could be a huge job creator, says Polluter Pays Federation

Pumping hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into cleaning up Alberta’s orphan oil and gas wells is the wrong approach to fixing a problem that should be fixed by industry, says the Polluter Pay Federation.

“We’re against any public money going towards well cleanup whatsoever,” said Mark Dorin, who lives in Red Deer and is vice-chairman of the newly formed non-profit industry watchdog.

Alberta law is clear that energy industry companies are obligated to clean up their abandoned wells either directly or through the industry-funded Orphan Well Association.

On Friday, the Alberta and federal government announced a $400 million funding commitment, which is part of a $1.7 billion reclamation and remediation plan that was announced last year for old oil and gas sites in Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan. Alberta’s share is $1 billion.

Dorin said the money should not be handouts but restructured in the form of loans the industry would be expected to pay back.


Government announces more funding for oil and gas site cleanup

Federal oilpatch bailout focused on cleaning up old wells

In touting the latest influx of cash, the Alberta government said $310 million already spent had gone to more than 600 companies and created 1,500 jobs.

Polluter Pay Federation says the program’s job creation promises are not happening. Rather than spend the cash on more reclamation work, the major oil companies that undertake the bulk of the work are simply replacing their own spending with grants.

“That (reclamation) work came to a grinding halt until they got the federal money and now they’re spending the federal money,” he said.

“The intention of the grants was to create jobs and keep the service industry going and we just don’t think that’s happened.”

The amount of money that industry has gone into the orphan well association fund — about $65 million a year — is well short of what will be required, said Dorin, who said the total oil and gas liability for Alberta has been estimated at $260 billion. Tens of thousands of orphan wells have yet to be put on the books.

Dorin said the Alberta Energy Regulator needs to do the job that it is legally required to do, which is to ensure that cleanup work is adequately funded, and not with public money.

“Either something is legal or it isn’t. If we start saying this law doesn’t apply and that one doesn’t apply, where do we draw the line?”

Alberta governments have known for years that the system is not working and Dorin was among many experts that sat down with the previous NDP government for days of talks about future environmental liabilities.

Those liabilities include the ongoing environmental damage from old and leaking wells that are contributing to terrible air quality and causing increased levels of diseases, such as Parkinson’s.

Undertaking the necessary cleanup would create huge numbers of jobs in the service industry and put rigs and cementing trucks back to work that are sitting dormant.

There are nearly 1,000 service rigs not working and they could also be used for reclamation along with other related equipment.

“There’s $70 billion worth of well abandonment and cleanup to be done. Every cement truck in Red Deer should be out in the field for the next 10 or 15 years every single day and paid for by industry. That’s how you put Red Deer back to work.

“That’s our message at the Polluter Pay Federation, that there is economic benefit to cleanup.”

The group plans to continue to lobby government to make the industry pay its share, he said. The federation also plans to work with landowners to educate them on their rights, which includes the right to have companies clean up their old wells on their land.

Another part of its mission is to provide legal help and funding for landowners asserting their legal rights.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lyn Radford, 2019 Canada Winter Games board chair, was named 2020 Sport Event Volunteer of the Year at the Prestige Awards. (File photo by Advocate staff)
WATCH: Lyn Radford wins award for volunteer efforts

The board chair of the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer… Continue reading

A candlelight vigil will be held in Red Deer on Thursday to honour the 350-plus people killed in the Easter bombing attack in Sri Lanka. Contributed photo
Candlelight vigil planned for deaths linked to Olymel COVID-19 outbreak

A candlelight vigil is being planned for those who died due to… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels forward Jaxsen Wiebe battles Calgary Hitmen forward Cael Zimmerman for a loose puck when the two teams squared off in February last season. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Calgary Hitmen shutout Red Deer Rebels

Rebels name centre Jayden Grubbe team captain ahead of Friday’s game

Traffic will be delayed on 40th Avenue and 19th Street until the end of February. (Advocate file photo).
Traffic delays expected downtown this weekend

Red Deer drivers will be delayed in the downtown area of the… Continue reading

Bryson, six, and Mara, eight, play with puppies from Dogs With Wings Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
WATCH: Dogs With Wings introduces Red Deer program

A program that trains puppies to be certified service, autism, facility and… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Funeral for Walter Gretzky to be held Saturday in home town of Brantford, Ont.

The funeral for hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter will take place… Continue reading

A sign for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service building is shown in Ottawa on May 14, 2013. A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the judicial warrant process at Canada's spy agency — an issue that made headlines last summer — stretch back at least nine years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Spy warrant shortcomings stretch back almost a decade, newly released audit shows

OTTAWA — A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the estimated $29 million… Continue reading

A trial countdown sign marks the days at George Floyd Square, March 4, 2021, in Minneapolis. Ten months after police officers brushed off George Floyd's moans for help on the street outside a south Minneapolis grocery, the square remains a makeshift memorial for Floyd who died at the hand of police making an arrest. The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin will begin with jury selection on March 8. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Officer’s trial could reopen intersection where Floyd died

MINNEAPOLIS — During a group’s recent meeting at the now-vacant Speedway gas… Continue reading

FILE - In this Aug. 30, 2020 file photo Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell calls for an end to violence in the city during a news conference a day after a demonstrator was shot and killed in downtown Portland. Amid protests following the police killing of George Floyd last year Portland dissolved a special police unit designed to focus on gun violence. Critics say the squad unfairly targeted Black people, but gun violence and homicides have since spiked in Oregon's largest city, and some say disbanding the 35-officer unit was a mistake. (Sean Meagher/The Oregonian via AP, File)
As violence surges, some question Portland axing police unit

PORTLAND, Ore. — Elmer Yarborough got a terrifying call from his sister:… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Just don’t call it cod liver oil

Many people swear that a daily dose of various vitamins is an… Continue reading

Email editor@auburn-reporter.com
Letter: Preserving green spaces in Red Deer

The Advocate published an article Feb. 11 about Sunnybrook residents concerned about… Continue reading

Former Toronto Argonauts lineman Chris Schultz remembered as a gentle giant

Former Toronto Argonauts lineman Chris Schultz remembered as a gentle giant

Most Read