WHEREAS Alberta Environment is reviewing ways of changing the delivery of services regarding reclamation and remediation for wells, pipelines and batteries; 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 apply for reclamation certificates without the input of landowners;AND WHEREAS the interests of Albertans regarding environmental protection could potentially be compromised to the point where sites that do not meet the vegetation assessment or equivalent land capability still receive reclamation certificates;AND WHEREAS the role of the Government of Alberta is to protect Albertas lands from degradation, and to protect Albertans from having to pay the costs to clean up sites that have improperly received reclamation certificates;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that AAMDC urge the Government of Alberta to revise the proposed changes to reclamation requirements for oil and gas sites, so as to include a two-part application for a reclamation certificate for wellsites, pipelines or batteries: one part for the operator of the wellsite, pipeline or battery and the other part for the landowner, thus allowing input as to whether any issues have not been addressed to the satisfaction of the landowner;AND FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the AAMDC urge the Government of Alberta to establish regulations requiring reclamation to proceed within a reasonable period of time after the well site or facility goes out of production, to eliminate situations in which companies avoid the financial impact of reclamation by continuing to rent the lands rather than conducting the necessary reclamation.
The Alberta government is in the process of making changes to the remediation and reclamation program for wells, pipelines and batteries. In spite of the fall resolution calling for the government to maintain its current role in inspecting reclamation sites and meeting with landowners, it is apparent that the government intends to proceed with the initiative of reducing governments inspection and reporting on the reclamation of each site. The new program will see government administratively review applications for reclamation certificates, conduct sample audits and cancel certificates where audits show problems or deficiencies.Upon review of the draft changes, it has been noted that the landowner will no longer be required to sign off on the application for the reclamation certificate. We believe that every landowner must be given the opportunity to formally express his/her opinion on the reclamation that has taken place on his/her land and that opinion should be considered by the company and the government when they review issuing a certificate. A record of the landowners opinion should be kept for future reference should problems arise. Without the landowners input regarding the reclamation and remediation process, important aspects of what the growth capability of the land was prior to the wellsite and what the situation of the lands are at the time of the application for the reclamation certificate will be lost.Although an appeal process is being proposed, we believe that allowing the landowner to have input at the time the reclamation certificate is applied for is a more prudent way to handle the environmental issues that may be present on these properties. We believe a two-part application would be beneficial for both the landowner and the operator of the well site, pipeline or battery. The two-part process should also assist with the reduction in the number of appeals because any issues that the landowners bring forward at the time of the application could be dealt with upfront rather than after the fact, once the certificate is issued. We continue to be of the opinion that the best process for all Albertans is that Alberta Environment Reclamation Inspection Officers inspect sites where an application for a reclamation certificate was requested because of the unbiased approach that they would have to the property. They would be looking out for the interests of the citizens of the Province of Alberta, not necessarily for the landowner nor the company wanting the reclamation certificate. Presently, Reclamation Inspection Officers work with both the landowners and the oil/gas industry explaining what is needed to ensure that the site is reclaimed to a proper and acceptable state. There are many cases on record of landowners who have had lengthy negotiations with oil companies to clean up the lease sites. Without the opportunity to respond to an application for a reclamation certificate prior to its issuance, landowners will be left at a great disadvantage. There is also a cost involved in getting specialists to examine the site, which once the certificate has been issued, would have to be borne by the landowner. In the majority of cases, this would cause a financial hardship for the landowner.We still believe that the environment is an area where the Alberta government should not and must not privatize. Government is responsible to its citizens to ensure that the air, water and soil is maintained in a clean and healthy manner not only for this generation but for generations to come. We would prefer to have industry not 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.
Delegates to the Fall 2002 Convention endorsed Resolution 13-02F, calling on the province to continue providing reclamation inspections through provincial staff.The AAMDC board met with Alberta Environment staff in January 2003, and the AAMDC Environment Committee met with departmental staff in February 2003, to discuss this issue further. Following those discussions, the AAMDC board wrote to Environment Minister Lorne Taylor to strongly encourage the minister to maintain the current system of carrying out reclamation inspections through provincial employees.