WHEREAS Alberta has experienced an extended period of economic challenge in the oil and gas industry which has resulted in many resource companies becoming insolvent, forced into receivership, or ultimately claiming bankruptcy; and
WHEREAS there are thousands of oil and gas wells across Alberta where regular lease maintenance is not being carried out as per the terms of private surface lease agreements, including wells transferred to the Orphan Well Association, companies in receivership or in bankruptcy proceedings, or companies currently still operating and producing product; and
WHEREAS there are no legislated timelines for oil and gas companies to reclaim inactive wells; and
WHEREAS there are currently approximately 90,000 inactive wells in Alberta; and
WHEREAS the Alberta Energy Regulator has been reluctant to suspend well licenses or limit access to these sites for companies that are in non-compliance surface leases terms related to weed control, contamination issues, fence maintenance, or non-payment of surface rentals; and
WHEREAS agricultural operators have been left to address the liabilities of many oil and gas wells that have been abandoned by bankrupt companies or companies that are unwilling or financially unable to maintain their sites; and
WHEREAS neglect of weed control on well sites has been a recent concern of municipalities and landowners across Alberta;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta advocate to the governments of Alberta and Canada to put in place appropriate legislation and standards to protect landowners from undue hardship as a result of oil and gas company neglect of weed control on well sites.
Ongoing depressed oil and natural gas prices have dramatically affected the industry, the provincial government, and the residents of Alberta. One of the unforeseen consequences to rural landowners has been the effects of unaddressed weed issues from oil and gas lease sites.
Several struggling oil and gas companies have opted to forego weed control measures on their lease sites on both private and Crown lands. This includes companies whose assets have been assigned to the Orphan Well Association, companies in receivership or bankruptcy proceedings, and companies that continue to operate and are choosing not to address their weed control obligations through their surface lease agreements.
This unfortunate symptom of an industry in peril has resulted in economic implications to cooperating landowners. In many cases, these neglected leases have resulted in weeds moving off the lease onto neighboring lands causing reduced crop yields and having landowners incur the cost, inconvenience, and liability of managing these weed issues themselves.
Efforts by landowners to contact operators of these facilities has proven to be frustrating. In some cases a contact person cannot be found, or if they are successful in contacting the company, many times the issues go unresolved.
The plant of primary concern is the Kochia weed (Kochia scoparia). This now common, non-native plant grows in wide range of soil types, is drought tolerant, and is becoming increasingly resistant to traditional herbicide treatments. This plant is of great concern to producers of annual cereal crops as it can substantially reduce crop yields and seed cleaning costs in affected fields. Kochia is not listed in the Alberta Weed Control Regulation, therefore municipalities are limited in their ability to address this issue through legislative processes.
Attempts at contacting the Orphan Well Association, the Alberta Energy Regulator, and the Alberta Surface Rights Board have not been successful in attenuating this situation.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.