Last week, the Government of Alberta introduced and passed Bill 12, The Liabilities Management Statutes Amendment Act, in the span of three days in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The rollout of this new law was alarming in and of itself – landowners were not properly consulted about these changes. However, this legislation is especially concerning because of the power that it grants to both Cabinet and Alberta’s Orphan Well Association (OWA).
Instead of science and data directing oilfield cleanup, cleanup is now politicized. Bill 12 gives Cabinet the power to direct OWA’s work and funding This means that the UCP Cabinet could direct the OWA not to clean up wells around a county or municipality that has opposed their agenda, or direct OWA to use funds to benefit friendly municipalities.
Bill 12 also weakens landowner rights and undermines the Polluter Pay principle, or the idea that those who made the mess should pay to clean it up. The legislation broadens the list of activities that companies can carry out on private property without compensation or consent from the landowner. Actions that were considered illegal prior to this legislation, including trespass onto private property, are now retroactively legal.
Additionally, this new legislation gives polluters an opportunity to get off the hook for paying for land reclamation and remediation. Currently, oil and gas companies have unpaid property taxes to the tune of $173 million across Alberta. By offloading their assets to the Orphan Well Association, bankrupt companies will be able to write off those unpaid property taxes instead of paying what they owe to municipalities across the province.
Today, the Council of Canadians supported the Alberta Liabilities Disclosure Project in bringing to light this undemocratic legislation, and demanding that the federal government attach strong conditions to any federal oilfield cleanup loans. These loans are expected to be announced in the coming days. You can check out the Alberta Liabilities Disclosure Project's press release.
This is the moment to let the federal government know that it needs to attach strong conditions to the oil and gas bailout, especially around oilfield clean up loans. We encourage you to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper on this issue or write to your MP. If you are looking for key messages on this issue, please email your local regional organizer.