“The changes made to the renewable energy project application process and reclamation requirements are a positive development for rural municipalities, landowners, and the future growth of the industry. Renewable energy projects are hugely important to the present and future of rural communities across the province, as well as to building a resilient and efficient energy system. Rural Alberta continues to support the industry and we hope this path forward will lead to better relationships between rural municipalities and the renewable energy sector.” - RMA President Paul McLauchlin
“Rural Alberta provides food security not only for the province, but for the nation. Ensuring that the growth of the renewable energy industry does not come at the cost of agricultural land is crucial to maintaining food production in future years and decades. An agriculture first approach is an excellent step into ensuring the protection of these lands and driving innovation in both the renewables and agriculture industries. We look forward to seeing how this is implemented.” – RMA President Paul McLauchlin
“Reclamation is critical for municipalities as large-scale industrial developments can have major long-term environmental and land use impacts. The province’s decision to implement reclamation security requirements will prevent a repeat of the ongoing issues associated with the oil and gas sector, including thousands of abandoned wells,” said McLauchlin. “Companies must be held accountable for the entire lifespan of a project, not just the profitable periods. We are looking forward to the implementation of a reclamation security system, as it will significantly reduce risks for landowners and municipalities.”
“One of the most impactful changes coming to the project approval process is recognition that municipalities must have an opportunity to be at the table for every project. Renewable energy provides big opportunities for rural communities, but the wrong project can also introduce big risks,” said McLauchlin. “Ensuring municipal land use plans are considered and municipal input is weighed will help the AUC to weed out poor quality projects and increase local buy-in for the companies that do business the right way: collaborating with municipalities, talking to residents, and adapting projects to ensure that they are beneficial for all involved. We are so pleased that our message on the importance of the municipal voice in this process was heard by the AUC and the Government of Alberta.
“Year after year, rural municipalities provide clear, documented, and verifiable evidence that a select group of property owners are simply choosing not to pay their property taxes, and year after year, the problem drags on due to a lack of industry regulation and accountability. While all other property owners in the province face strict penalties for non-payment of property taxes, oil and gas companies continue to exploit legislative and policy loopholes and hide behind an industry regulator that has, for many years, refused to hold some companies accountable for poor business decisions, high liability risks, and a lack of concern for the public interest.” – Paul McLauchlin, Rural Municipalities of Alberta.
“While government and industry supporters typically question the RMA’s survey results by arguing that the total unpaid tax amount includes legacy tax arrears that will likely never be collected, an additional $43 million in new unpaid taxes in 2023 indicate quite clearly that this is an active, ongoing issue that continues to make it more difficult for rural municipalities to provide the infrastructure and services that oil and gas companies, as well as other industries and rural resident, rely on,” McLauchlin explained. “This issue is not settled; companies continue to profit from Alberta’s resources while ignoring their community obligations and funnelling profits to executives and shareholders.”
“In recent years, the Government of Alberta has made two legislative and policy changes intended to deal with property tax non-payment by some oil and gas companies. While these have led to modest improvements in the situation, they are far from a solution,” McLauchlin said. “One change focuses on helping municipalities recover taxes from bankrupt or insolvent companies, and the other restricts the ability of companies to grow their asset base if they have taxes in arrears. While both help on the margins, neither target the companies at the root of the problem: the “zombies” that continue to operate but have no interest in growing. These companies often cut costs anywhere they can: in tax payments, in surface leases, in safety initiatives, in reclamation preparation. These are the companies that are a risk to rural municipalities and all Albertans but are allowed to continue to pull Albertans’ resources from the ground and funnel profits out of the province.”
“I’ll be blunt. Rural municipalities and all other companies and individuals paying property taxes are being used. We are being used by a small number of zombie oil and gas companies to not only subsidize the taxes they don’t want to pay, but to prop up their very existence. The AER has allowed these companies to operate for such a long time, with such poor financial management, that they are now unequipped to deal with the consequences of them failing,” said McLauchlin. “I am a strong supporter of the oil and gas industry, as are all RMA members. However, what the AER has allowed a small number of companies to get away with is not in the public interest. It harms municipalities, it harms other property owners, and it harms the oil and gas industry. The only group benefitting are these irresponsible companies taking advantage of the AER’s hands-off approach. At the end of the day, we need a regulator, not a cheerleader.”
“Given how long companies have been allowed to ignore their property tax obligations, it is absurd that we have to propose a phased approach to enhanced enforcement. Unfortunately, this is the situation that regulatory inaction has placed us in. A phased enforcement approach is a reasonable strategy that will give companies more time to get their financial house in order, with defined timelines and consequences for inaction. Allowing this problem to continue unchecked while offering Band-Aid solutions is simply unfair to Albertans, and will allow a few bad actors to continue to damage the reputation of Alberta’s oil and gas industry.” – Paul McLauchlin, Rural Municipalities of Alberta.
|Minimum Standards for Adequate Ambulance Services in Rural Alberta
|Municipal Involvement in Quasi-Judicial Agencies
|Enhancing Home Care Services for Rural Residents in Alberta
|Sustainable Community Hospice Funding Model
|Post-COVID Bridging Support for Small and Medium Community Facilities and Agricultural Societies