Oil Companies—not Taxpayers—Should Pay to Clean Up Old Oil Wells

Reading the news, it’s looking more likely that the government is going to be using taxpayer money to clean up old Alberta oil wells.

So, oil companies pump out huge profits and then leave the mess for the taxpayer to clean up?

What other industries or businesses are allowed to do this?  None.

Alberta’s Orphan Well Fund is funded by oil companies—as it should be.  Bailing out the Fund means oil companies do not have to fully finance their cleanup Fund.  The new government plan—as hinted at by the Premier and federal officials this week—amounts to a taxpayer subsidy to oil companies.

All of this is occurring when Alberta is the only place in North America with no time limits for companies to cleanup inactive wells.  Estimates of the number of inactive wells in Alberta—that taxpayers could end up paying to cleanup—range from 80,000 to 200,000 wells.  The absence of timelines for cleaning up wells is one of the main reasons that Alberta has such a big orphan well problem to begin with.

If the government is going to subsidize these companies, then at least it needs to impose timelines for the companies to clean up the thousands of inactive wells before they become orphaned.  To do anything less is just wrong and will prolong Alberta’s growing problem of orphan wells.

Keith Wilson, Wilson Law Office        

Keith Wilson is a St. Albert-based lawyer who specializes in representing clients on legal matters regarding property rights, land use, environmental and oil and gas law.

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