ALBERTA

Oil Well Cleanup Passed Over In Federal Budget

03/23/2016 03:46 EDT | Updated 03/23/2016 03:59 EDT
Michael Bell/CP

CALGARY — Disappointment was the word of the day for those who had pushed for federal funding to help clean up the backlog of thousands of out of service oil wells that dot the Prairies.

"I think it's a missed opportunity to put people back to work and fix a problem,'' said Alberta party leader Greg Clark.

He's been asking for funding to clean up the roughly 700 orphaned wells in Alberta, where the company that owns the well can't be found or has gone bankrupt.

"It would be instant job creation, instant economic stimulus, and we get to clean up an environmental mess,'' said Clark. "It's unfortunate that that specific investment wasn't included in the federal budget.''

"It's a missed opportunity."

Premier Brad Wall of Saskatchewan had asked for $156 million from the federal government to accelerate the cleanup of wells — a job the companies themselves are responsible for — but was left empty-handed in Ottawa's budget statement Tuesday.

Commenting in Regina after the budget was released, Wall described the lack of funding as a disappointment because the proposed program, while imperfect, would have provided jobs for unemployed energy workers.

"This would be a direct help to the energy sector, put energy workers back to work in our province and it looks like they're not going to fund that so that's a disappointment,'' said Wall.

Notley was also hoping for oil well cleanup funding

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said she also had been looking for funding of oil well cleanup in the budget, and didn't yet know if there is some funding available in the infrastructure spending that was promised.

But she said she was pleased to see $50 million set aside to help the oil and gas industry reduce emissions.

The NDP government had initially rejected the idea of government funding for oil well cleanup in February, saying that it's industry's responsibility, but had recently said it was more open to the idea.

Saskatchewan's NDP party had also come out against federal funding for oil well cleanup, saying there are more important infrastructure projects to be done.

Petroleum association had asked for $500 million

Mark Salkeld, head of the Petroleum Services Association of Canada, had asked for $500 million from the federal government to provide an incentive for companies to move faster to clean up the roughly 77,500 inactive wells in the province.

He said he was pleased to see action on employment insurance in the budget, but said creating jobs for his members would be better.

"Nobody and no country wants their people on welfare, so putting people back to work along the lines of well decommissioning is the better solution,'' said Salkeld.

He said the industry is reluctant to ask for money and would be happy to have the program end when the industry turns around but that the money is needed now.

"We're definitely an industry that is very loath to ask for money but it's desperate times, we've got a lot of member companies that are suffering right now,'' said Salkeld.

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