There have been a number of criticisms directed at Kenney’s UCP government in recent months. Some deserved, some not. I dare say, there is no criticism of this UCP government more warranted or deserving than the UCP’s demonstrated ineptitude in managing Alberta’s orphan well and abandoned well programs.
Last April, the Alberta government was allocated one billion dollars from the federal government to help clean up orphaned and abandoned oil and gas wells in Alberta. Alberta property owners know billions more are needed to complete the job; however, these same property owners were thankful for the desperately needed funds to begin the clean-up and reclamations. On the other side of the equation, thousands of oil patch workers have either lost their jobs or taken pay cuts to remain employed. Many of these workers, and the companies that employ them, see the injection of one billion dollars as a defence against unemployment and bankruptcy.
Now six months later after the funds were announced, the Alberta public is told the UCP government has only allocated an estimated 20 per cent of the funds. What’s the problem? There can only be one answer: gross incompetence.
The industry needs these funds allocated as soon as possible. Property owners and farmers want this work done sooner than later, and the unemployed oil patch workers are desperate for the work to begin. Alberta’s Minister of Energy, Sonya Savage, is stressing that her staff is working around the clock to allocate the funds. But we have to wonder what it is they are actually working on.
Alberta’s documentation and accounting for orphan wells and abandoned wells extends back more than twenty years. In the worst-case example of accounting for the wells, the former PC government in 2014 misreported the problem as a five-billion-dollar short fall. It was admittedly quite a bit larger according to the auditor general’s office.
Today in 2020, Kenney’s UCP government is acting similar to a gopher staring into a set of headlights speeding down a rural highway. The excuse proffered by minister Savage for failing to allocate the funds is nonsensical. In the absence of any suggestion otherwise, she should pick a spot on any of the numerous lists of orphaned and abandoned wells created by multiple past governments and allocate the dollars for their intended purpose.
A better idea is welcome, but indecision and failure to take action is sheer incompetence.
Joe Anglin, Rimbey