Weeds on Abandoned Wellsites Working Group – scope expanded to include “bad actors”

December 10, 2021 meeting, Resolution 1-21,

After the first meeting on September 20, 2021, it became clear that the issues extended beyond wellsites that were abandoned and moving into the Orphan Well program, to those with active licensees that were non compliant. It was decided that the Farmers Advocate should also be added to the conversation.

Municipalities and landowners are frustrated with the lack of response to notices under the Weeds Act or ability for the measures available under the Act to get timely compliance. The provisions of the Weeds Act are set up well for enforcement within a local community with local landowners and managers, but have very little clout with oil and gas companies who are often multinational with little or no local presence. There are also liability and OH&S concerns with entering lease sites that can lead to increased financial burden to enforcement when specialized safety training is needed.

The meeting started off with Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) clarifying their abilities to respond to weed issues on oil and gas sites. The AER does not have jurisdiction under the Weeds Act so cannot address concerns on private land leases. Landowners are left to address their concerns directly with the lease holders and have the opportunity to add weed control responsibilities in the lease agreements they sign with the companies. Landowners then have the option to connect with the Farmers Advocate or work through the civil court process to address “bad actors” when agreements are broken. AER does however have jurisdiction under the Public Lands Act to address weed concerns for leases on public land. They can require companies to clean up weed concerns once the lease holder applies for a reclamation certificate.

The working group then heard from the Farmers Advocate about the possible means available to recover costs through the Land and Property Rights Tribunal, the use of Memorandums of Understanding between companies and the municipalities, and landowner options using the lease holder agreements through arbitration and civil court processes. After some discussion the group concluded that the volume of enforcement need to address the current weed control issues would not be appropriate for the Land and Property Rights Tribunal, and that the current options are too lengthy to provide effective weed control.

It was decided that the discussion needs to switch to working out an effective process rather than continued effort to assess the responsibility for the enforcement and expense. Legislative changes maybe the necessary step and so a committee was formed to assess the current legislative responsibilities and come back to the working group with some suggestions. It was brought up that Alternative Energy developments are being left of legislation and there seems to be a gap developing that should be considered in any legislation change advocacy. Marcia Hewitt-Fisher, a Director in the Crop Assurance and Rural Programs Branch volunteered to work with the sub-committee to come up with suggestions and options to discuss at the next meeting in the new year.

  • Resolution 2-21: Weed Issues on Oil and Gas Sites in Rural Alberta

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