In May 2021 the ASBPC met with a delegation from the Primary Agriculture Division that included ADM John Conrad. The Committee discussed as many of the resolutions that they could in the time that was allotted, giving priority attention to those where there was some activity. From that discussion ADM learned the extent of the issues resulting in Resolution 1-21 and the frustration and expenses being born by the ASBs. As a result the ADM has organized a working group to discuss the issues and try to find a solution.
The ASBPC was asked to identify and submit possible candidates for the working group and suggested a mixture of ASB members elected, farmers at large, and a few Agriculture Fieldmen. The first virtual meeting of the working group occurred on September 20th.
ADM John Conrad had some opening remarks and then the meeting was left to his staff to chair. Representatives from the Alberta Energy Regulator, and someone from Lands Policy and Programs with Environment and Parks also attended.
After some discussion it was agreed by the committee that the issue was beyond abandoned wells and also included active well sites with poor or no weed control. Feedback from the group was that there was frustration with how to trigger a response from AER. It was clarified that AER does not get involved with disputes regarding agreements held between a landowner and lease holder, and so unless the well is abandoned or in process to be cleaned up, response from AER should not be expected. A suggestion was made to invite the Farmers Advocate to the next meeting.
It was stated that weeds are contaminants and need to be treated as such, since they have long term financial implications for farmers who have to control them on surrounding acres. A stronger more robust system that builds in accountability needs to be found.
Complaints on abandoned well sites can be formally submitted to AER though the “Contact Us” link at the top right of their webpage, or by calling the numbers found at the same place. When making a complaint be sure to include the lease holder name, location, legal land description, closest town and comments. AER investigators will only visit the sites that they are responsible for. They will not intervein on behalf of a landowner with an active lease agreement.
The issues around liability concerns with accessing a site particularly if the site is sour gas also were discussed. Is it safe for farmers who are not trained for sour gas to access sites to control weeds? The current situation where the landowner is ultimately responsible for the weeds, even when the lease holder agreement is active but neglected, is concerning.
Another meeting is planned in October after the election that will include the farmers advocate office, and AER will lead a discussion on how to improve their complaint handling system.