The province is helping the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) crack down on abandoned oil and gas infrastructure.
They closed a loophole to make it harder for officials from companies that walk away from oil and gas wells without cleaning up.
The key requirement, known as Directive 67, was amended to support companies that behave responsibly and help shield them from more potential increases in the number of orphan wells. Those orphan wells are reclaimed through a fund that industry pays into under the polluter-pays principle.
"Albertans permit companies to produce and profit from the province’s energy resources with the expectation that they address end-of-life abandonment and reclamation obligations," said Jim Ellis, president and CEO of Alberta Energy Regulator. “The stronger rules will help prevent individuals who leave liabilities behind from returning to the industry without proper safeguards in place."
Alberta's government is giving the Orphan Well Association a $235-million loan to speed up the process of cleaning up old wells over the next three years. Municipalities will also get a credit for uncollectable taxes on disowned oil and gas properties. They're also lobbying the federal government for changes to bankruptcy laws that would hold companies accountable for their environmental cleanup.
“Closing this loophole helps ensure Albertans are protected from financial and environmental liabilities and that the vast majority of companies that behave responsibly are protected from those who attempt to offload their obligations onto others," said Minister of Energy, Margaret McCuaig-Boyd.
This amendment to Directive 67 is because of the 2016 Redwater decision by the Alberta Court of Appeal, undermining the Alberta Energy Regulator's ability to hold companies and operators accountable for their actions. The case is currently in front of the Supreme Court of Canada. Cases and decisions against the AER have risen the number of orphan wells in Alberta from 705 in March 2015 to 1,861 in November 2017.