WHEREAS Alberta Environment is reviewing options for changing the way it delivers services regarding reclamation inquiries and departmental inspections of abandoned well sites, with the potential result that the responsibility for inspecting and certifying abandoned well sites could be placed in the hands of the oil and gas industry;AND WHEREAS Albertans are already concerned about the manner in which the oil and gas industry is conducting itself, and more concerns will arise should the industry be permitted to contract its own biologists and engineers to have abandoned well sites cleared for reclamation certification;AND WHEREAS the Alberta Environment Department provides an unbiased inspection system for the benefit of all Albertans who do not have the expertise to determine whether the soils on these sites have been properly returned to an equivalent land capability;AND WHEREAS the better interests of Albertans regarding environmental protection could be compromised to the point where hazardous sites could go undetected for many years and tax paying Albertans could be required to pay for the clean-up of sites where reclamation certificates have been issued inappropriately;AND WHEREAS the role of the Alberta Government is to protect Albertas lands from degradation;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Government of Alberta to continue its current policy of having Alberta Environment investigate abandoned well sites for the purpose of issuing reclamation certificates, in order to maintain an unbiased and fair process for both industry and landowners, rather than allowing the oil and gas industry to regulate this service by permitting them to contract their own reclamation inspectors.
The Alberta government implemented the reclamation program for abandoned wells to be able to work with industry and property owners to resolve issues where the site developer wished to conclude a lease agreement with an area landowner once the site was no longer producing oil or gas. Through this process, Alberta Environment Reclamation Inspection Officers would inspect a site where an application for a reclamation certificate was requested. The Reclamation Inspection Officer would determine whether or not the site was reclaimed to the extent where a certificate verifying it as a clean site could be issued. Often the Reclamation Inspection Officer works with the landowners and the oil/gas industry explaining what is needed to ensure the site is reclaimed to a proper and acceptable state. Recently, the Alberta Government has put together a plan to review the process of inspecting the abandoned well-sites and one of the proposals would have the oil and gas industry hire their own inspection officer to verify whether or not the site is suitable to receive a reclamation certificate. Many Alberta landowners do not trust that the oil and gas companies will operate in a fair and equitable manner. There are concerns that individuals who will be inspecting sites will be paid by the oil and gas companies and will therefore need to provide the results that those companies are asking for if they are to get paid for their service. There are many cases on record of landowners who have had lengthy negotiations with oil companies to clean up the lease sites. Without the unbiased opinion of Alberta Environment Reclamation Officers, many of these landowners would be unable to resolve the issues of the lease sites with the oil and gas industry. They would, essentially, be on the hook for the proper clean up of the lands.The process of having the oil company hire the consultant to issue the inspection certificate for an abandoned site would sway the appearance of fair play in the judgment that the site is clean. This in turn may either force the landowner to accept an unclean site or cause additional expenses to be incurred by the landowner who may have to hire his/her own consultant should he/she disagree with the site inspection.Landowners do not want their lands assessed by anyone who is being paid by the company that is trying to get the clean certificate. They are much more willing to accept an unbiased opinion from someone who has nothing to gain; someone like an Alberta Environment agent.The Alberta Government needs to be encouraged to keep the Reclamation Inspection program employed by the Alberta Environment Department, to be able to keep things at arms length, and ensure that all parties have the same rights when it comes to the reclamation of lands to a proper, acceptable state.The environment is an area where the Alberta Government should not and must not privatize. The Government is responsible to the citizens of Alberta to ensure that the air, water and soil are maintained in a clean and healthy manner not only for this generation but also for generations to come. Industry cannot be self-regulating when it comes to environmental issues and the financial requirements that may be needed to resolve environmental issues that arise as a result of the industry itself.
The AAMDC has no resolutions currently in effect with respect to this matter.