Alberta government announces new rules for power generators aimed at lowering utility bills

New measures directed at the practice of 'economic withholding'

Amanda Stephenson · The Canadian Press · Posted: Mar 11, 2024 4:52 PM MDT | Last Updated: March 11

Alberta's government is updating its electricity market rules with new temporary measures it says will help lower consumers' utility bills.

The new measures are aimed at the practice of "economic withholding," a strategy regularly used by power generators in Alberta's unique-to-Canada free-market electricity system.

Under Alberta's competitive market design, electricity suppliers submit offers into the energy market known as the power pool every hour.

The Alberta Electric System Operator then dispatches the suppliers' electricity, starting with the lowest-priced offers and moving higher until the province's power needs for that hour are met.

Economic withholding is when power producers deliberately hold back some of their supply, offering it at a higher price. It's a gamble that can pay off if the operator needs that power, since the producer makes more money. It backfires if the province's power needs are met before it gets to the higher-priced offer.

The practice is not illegal but has been highly criticized recently as one of the factors contributing to soaring consumer power bills in the province, as well as a growing number of occurrences where power prices in the province have been higher during off-peak periods than during periods of peak demand.

"Our government is committed to Alberta's unique and investor-driven energy-only market. However, the market's rules were designed 25 years ago, and some are no longer optimal for the system today," said Utilities Minister Nathan Neudorf in a news release.

"This will truly make a difference by helping lower Albertans' utility bills."

The new rules will limit the offer price of natural gas generating units owned by large providers, if net revenues cross a predefined threshold. They will also require natural gas generating assets to be made available, as directed by the AESO, in certain circumstances such as extreme weather and other times of peak demand.

The government said the changes will still allow generators to earn revenue while ensuring Albertans have access to affordable and reliable power.
Electricity market changing

Joel MacDonald, founder of electricity price comparison site, said Alberta is one of only two jurisdictions in North America to have an energy-only electricity market, in which generators are not paid to have standby generating capacity. Instead, they are only paid for the electricity they actually dispatch to the grid.

That means, MacDonald said, that if the government sets the ceiling for economic withholding too low, power producers will feel the impact on their bottom line and may be more hesitant to invest in building new generating capacity.

"It will, in the short-term, reduce those high prices during peak periods but we're going to have, long-term, less generation. Less power plants are going to be built," he said.

"If a lot of Albertans were very concerned about rolling brownouts mid-winter, this would actually make that potential crisis more likely to happen."

Neudorf announced the changes in a speech at the annual conference of the Independent Power Producers Society of Alberta in Banff on Monday.

The industry group, known as IPPSA, represents Alberta's electricity generators. The group has not yet replied to a request for comment.

The changes announced Monday are just the start of what could be a series of significant changes to Alberta's electricity market.

The rules that govern the province's current system were designed at a time when the bulk of Alberta's power needs came from coal, and don't necessarily work for a system that is now driven by natural gas and renewables.

In a particularly high-profile example, Alberta was forced to declare an emergency grid alert in January when the system — under pressure from a number of natural gas plant outages as well as wind that was not blowing — came close to buckling.

Alberta is also locked in a heated dispute with Ottawa over the federal government's proposed Clean Electricity Regulations, which Alberta has said cannot be achieved by 2035 without jeopardizing the stability and affordability of the province's power system.

Under Premier Danielle Smith, the provincial government has a number of reviews underway looking at grid reliability, the future energy mix and electricity market design.

Jason Wang, senior electricity analyst with clean energy think-tank the Pembina Institute, said he had hoped Neudorf would use Monday's IPPSA conference to provide more clarity about the province's future direction than he did.

"Essentially what we know is there will be further changes to the market. But it needs to be timely and recognize the urgency of the energy transition and climate issues," Wang said.

"If we get years of market uncertainty for developers without any indication of what the end result is going to look like, that could really slow down the net-zero transition."

NDP’s Ganley wants inquiry into well cleanup liability

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on March 6, 2024.

Provincial NDP leadership candidate Kathleen Ganley feels Albertans should know the full scope of cost of cleaning up orphaned and inactive well sites.The MLA for Calgary-Mountain View is also promising that she would if elected premier call for a review and overhaul of the Alberta Energy Regulator.In a phone interview Tuesday, the former Alberta justice minister and three-term MLA, said Albertans are concerned about clean-up liability.“The commitment if elected premier I will do a complete assessment, an inquiry into what the liability is. The difficulty is right now we don’t even really know what it is and I think people are rightfully concerned that isn’t being handled. And I think Albertans deserve to know what the possible liability is, especially in light of the fact that Smith’s solution to the problem is to pay to clean it up, to have the taxpayer to clean it up,” said Ganley.Determining the number of inactive wells is difficult, she said, with nobody knowing the scope of how many are left uncapped.Ganley – who believes in a polluter pay approach – said the AER, an independent organization of the province, has lost the public’s trust.The AER, she says, is contributing to that distrust by allowing gas fields or wells to be sold off to companies without the financial ability to pay for cleanup.“The recent difficulty around the Kearl project, the lack of notification of the First Nation about potential contamination, and now we see the AER allowing exploratory drilling for coal in the Grassy Mountain.“So I think the public is very skeptical that the regulator is acting in their interests,” said Ganley.The purpose of a regulator, she noted, is oversight of companies.“At the end of the day, economic activity is incredibly important but we have to make sure that economic activity is in the benefit of people,” added the leadership hopeful.“We need to respect the polluter-pay principle. These companies make a lot of money and the deal is they pay to clean up after themselves, not that the people are left on the hook.”The NDP has had ongoing discussions – or arguments, said the MLA – with the UCP on the matter with their solution, according to Ganley, being to let off the hook for financial accountability those companies which profited from Alberta’s natural resources, while leaving Albertans on the hook for the cleanup costs.“That’s not how we build an economy that’s fair for everyone.”An inquiry into well cleanup liability would include an examination of the AER’s oversight practices and enforcement mechanisms to identify deficiencies in the system that contribute to mounting liabilities and environmental risks.She also wants it to include an investigation into the potential contamination of water and the broader implications for the province’s water quality and health of ecosystems.Ganley also wants industry practices and corporate accountability measures to be scrutinized to ensure the public is protected from environmental liability and to ensure responsible development.

By Lethbridge Herald on February 28, 2024.

Al Beeber – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – [email protected]

The provincial government has lifted its pause on the final approval of renewable energy projects effective today.

Any projects moving forward will be undertaken with agricultural lands being a priority, Premier Danielle Smith said Wednesday.

Smith and Lethbridge East MLA Nathan Neudorf, the Minister of Affordability and Utilities, made the announcement Wednesday.

Calling Alberta the country’s leader in renewable energy, Smith said the province wants to ensure it has affordable and reliable energy for residents.

As much of 92 per cent of renewable investment in Canada last year happened in Alberta, she said.

“Our unique de-regulated electricity market and competitive tax system mean that we are Canada’s hub for investment and we want the province to remain the jurisdiction of choice for investors,” said Smith.

But growing the renewable energy industry “must happen in well-defined and responsible ways, the premier said in a conference call.

“That wasn’t happening” which is why the province last August launched a pause on large utility scale renewable electricity projects using wind, solar, geothermal, hydro or bio-bas, she said.

The pause was introduced because Alberta needs a reliable and affordable grid, said the premier noting January’s emergency alert showed the importance of that.

“We need to ensure that we’re not sacrificing our future agricultural yields, or tourism dollars or breathtaking view-scapes to rush renewable development through,” added the premier.

The Alberta Utility Commission had 13 applications for review before the pause and another 13 were added during it. The premier expects that trend to continue saying the province must be responsible when approving applications.

“Renewables have a place in our energy mix but the fact remains that they are intermittent and unreliable,” the premier added.

“They are not the silver bullet for Alberta’s electricity needs and they are not the silver bullet of electricity affordability because each new development risks driving up the transmission costs and makes Alberta’s utility bills even more expensive,” the premier added.

The province will prioritize agricultural lands with the AUC taking an agriculture first approach when evaluating the best use of agriculture lands proposed for renewables development.

“Alberta will no longer permit renewable generation development on Class 1 and Class 2 lands unless the proponent can demonstrate the ability for both crops and/or livestock to co-exist with the renewable generation project.”

The province will establish tools to ensure native grasslands, irrigable and productive lands continue to be available for agricultural production, Smith said.

The province will also establish buffer zones of a minimum 35 kilometres around protected areas and other pristine view-scapes as designated by the province.

New wind projects will no longer be permitted within those buffer zones and other proposed developments located in buffer zones may be subject to a visual impact assessment before approval.

“You cannot build wind turbines the size of the Calgary tower in front of a UNESCO world heritage site or on Nose Hill (a prominent Calgary park) or in your neighbour’s backyard, said Smith.

“We have a duty to protect the natural beauty and communities of our province,” added Smith.

This includes reclamation so developers will be responsible for reclamation costs via bond or security.

She said it’s imperative that reclamation rules and costs are accounted for before any development starts.

Another duty is to consult with First Nations with meaningful engagement being required before any policy changes for projects on Crown land and those changes won’t come into effect until late 2025.

Any renewable development on Crown lands will be on a case-by-case basis.

And municipalities will now be automatically be granted the right to participate in AUC hearings and be allowed to review rules related to municipal submission requirements while clarifying consultation requirements.

Municipalities will also be enabled to be eligible for cost recovery for participation and review.

She added changes to the transmission regulation are expected in coming months and renewable projects should expect changes in how transmission costs are allocated, the premier added.

Neudorf said “our goal is to ensure that Alberta’s electricity grid is affordable, reliable and sustainable for future generations to come.”

The Minister said he regularly hears from constituents about how expensive their utility bills have gotten.

He said concerns about the grid reliability were highlighted during the January cold snap and emergency alert.

“We knew we needed a balanced and thoughtful approach that considered all perspectives to protect the reliability and affordability of our electricity grid,” the Minister said.

Neudorf said that under the NDP renewable energy development in Alberta became “a free-for-all completely lacking sufficient rules or guidelines.”

He said Alberta is a destination of choice for investments in part because of the government’s commitment to reducing economic barriers. He added the rapid pace of unrestricted renewables growth raised concerns that needed to be addressed.

The AUC inquiry into renewable energy development involved rigorous consultation between August and December which included more than 600 pages of oral and written submissions.

By the end of 2024, the UCP intends to bring forward the necessary policy, legislative and regulatory changes “to set a clear and responsible path forward for renewable project development,” said Neudorf.

“Agriculture is at the heart of Alberta, playing a significant role in our heritage, economy and our way of life,” he noted, adding native grasslands have been preserved by farmers and ranchers since before Alberta became a province and are deeply connected to First Nations.

He said there will be no blanket bans on specific types of land, with the province ensuring renewable projects don’t sterilize agricultural land.

AUC will conduct hearings to determine appropriate setbacks for projects from neighbouring residences and other important infrastructure and will be required to conduct site visits for proposed projects.

Changes won’t be retroactive, applying to project approval starting March 1.

Politicians, industry weigh in on Alberta’s renewables rule


Jeff McIntosh

Posted February 28, 2024 4:17 pm.

Last Updated February 28, 2024 4:26 pm.

EDMONTON — Reaction is pouring in to the Alberta government’s new rules for future wind and solar energy projects. They include a ban on new wind projects located within 35-kilometre “buffer zones” around protected areas and other “pristine viewscapes” designated by the province and an “agriculture first” approach by the Alberta Utilities Commission when evaluating proposed development on agricultural lands.

Here’s a look at some of the responses:

“Today’s announcement has dropped an uncertainty bomb on renewable project investors and developers in Alberta. Until last year, the province was the undisputed renewables capital of Canada, securing over $4.7 billion in new investment and bringing thousands of new jobs to the province since 2019. Now Alberta is undermining its own success, making it one of the only jurisdictions in the world trying to frustrate the deployment of cheap, clean, renewable electricity.” — Evan Pivnick, clean energy program manager at Clean Energy Canada.

“While details are needed across all categories, particularly concerning is the continued vagueness of the viewscapes requirements. Taken at face value, an unprecedented 35-kilometre buffer zone around all protected areas in southern Alberta would eliminate large sections of the province and would create a backdoor land ban.” — Jorden Dye, director of the Business Renewables Centre-Canada.

“Largely, we’re happy, because the (rules) follow the responsible development program that PACE follows … If the AUC had been allowed to follow the normal consultation process and look at what responsible developers do, taking a page from PACE’s book, this abeyance probably wouldn’t have been required.” — Claude Mindorff, director of development for Pathfinder Clean Energy.

“Restrictions announced today on the renewable energy sector are patently unfair, targeting a key industry that supports reliable and affordable electricity. These restrictions — that do not apply to other industries or land uses — will lead to fewer projects, slow the growth of clean and inexpensive electricity, and curtail an otherwise reliable and growing source of municipal tax revenue.” — Jason Wang, senior analyst at the Pembina Institute.

“These restrictions should not be applied only to renewable energy developments; they should also apply to the far more harmful oil and gas industry.” — Ruiping Luo, conservation specialist with the Alberta Wilderness Association.

“Albertans have been vocal that they don’t want largescale developments to interfere with our province’s most beautiful natural features. You cannot build wind turbines the size of the Calgary Tower in front of a UNESCO World Heritage site or on Nose Hill or in your neighbour’s backyard. We have a duty to protect the natural beauty and communities of our province.” — Alberta Premier Danielle Smith.

“Let’s not be fooled, the devil is in the details. Danielle Smith is continuing her ideological crusade against renewables by placing a range of overly-restrictive conditions on future renewable projects. Today, she essentially announced that, with the new 35-kilometre rule and other layers of restrictions, the vast majority of Alberta is off limits for new renewables. It seems that the ‘temporary’ job killing moratorium is now becoming permanent job-killing policy, via a red-tape burial of this job-creating industry.” — Liberal MP George Chahal, who represents Calgary Skyview and chair of the Standing Committee of Natural Resources.

“Investments follow certainty and clarity, and this new red tape won’t help. These rules are anti-business. The government must be transparent and release the Alberta Utilities Commission inquiry’s reports. Alberta has the potential to be the home of a thriving and competitive renewables industry and this new red tape will result in further investment uncertainty and send a signal that Alberta isn’t open for business.” — Nagwan Al-Guneid, Alberta NDP energy and climate critic.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2024.

The Canadian Press

Alberta regulator accepts Rockies coal mine application, will call public hearing

Feb 23, 2024 | 1:58 PM
By Canadian Press

CROWSNEST PASS, AB – Alberta’s energy regulator says it will accept an application and open hearings into a controversial open-pit coal mine on the southern slopes of the province’s Rocky Mountains.

In a letter dated Thursday, the Alberta Energy Regulator says it has decided the Grassy Mountain proposal should be considered an advanced project and be exempt from a ministerial order banning coal development along the province’s eastern slopes.

The letter says the regulator reached the decision after receiving a note from Energy Minister Brian Jean suggesting the project falls into the exempt category.

It says the application will go before a public hearing, although it doesn’t set out the rules for that hearing or who will be eligible to appear before it.

The Grassy Mountain steelmaking coal project near Crowsnest Pass has been before regulators for years and was denied permits by both the Alberta and federal governments in 2021 after a lengthy environmental assessment.

Proponent Benga Mining, now named Northback, lost an appeal of that decision in Alberta’s top court and the Supreme Court of Canada declined to reconsider it.

Northback has applied for exploration and water diversion licences.

Alberta power generator fined for operating without regulatory approval

Investigators found Avex had not applied for a permit to build the plant

CP, The Canadian Press
Published Feb 12, 2024

An Alberta power generator has been fined for running a plant for months without regulatory approval.

The Alberta Utilities Commission has fined Avex Energy nearly a quarter-million dollars for running a natural gas-fired generator while bypassing regulatory tests for safe and unobtrusive operation.

“They have not been approved to operate,” said commission spokesman Geoff Scotton.

According to an agreed statement of facts, officials from what was then Avila Energy approached the commission with plans to build a generating station in the County of Stettler in the summer of 2019. Avila already held permits for operating a natural gas field in that area of central Alberta and planned to use that gas to fuel the plant.

“On the basis of those discussions, Avila believed that no additional approval was required and proceeded on that basis,” the statement says.

The generator was built and fired up on April 23, 2021.

The electricity, eventually reaching 3.5 megawatts, was sold to a bitcoin miner. Avila, which eventually turned into Avex Energy, planned to generate up to 10 megawatts.

By December, the commission began to receive noise complaints from residents, some as far as nearly three kilometres away.

“The complainants stated that they first noticed the noise in May 2021 and that the noise became increasingly problematic in October 2021, when the additional generating capacity was added,” the agreed statement of facts says.

The utilities commission investigated the noise complaints and found Avex was unlicensed.

Investigators found Avex had not applied for a permit to build the plant. The company had not conducted a noise assessment as required, nor did it receive required environmental approvals.

The Red Willow power plant was shut Dec. 22, 2021. It remains closed.

Avex was “co-operative, forthright and responsive,” during the investigation, the commission said in a summary of the settlement.

The total fine was $241,477. It was reduced 30 per cent because of the company’s response to the investigation.

Scotton says such infractions are unusual but do occasionally occur.

“From time to time these situations are brought to our attention.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 12, 2024.

Internal documents suggest Alberta Energy Regulator underestimated oil well liability

By Bob Weber, The Canadian Press on January 19, 2024.
A pumpjack draws out oil from a well head near Calgary on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. Internal documents from Alberta's energy regulator suggest the province's environmental liability for oil and gas wells could be nearly triple the figure the agency announced earlier this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

EDMONTON – Internal documents from Alberta’s energy regulator suggest the province’s environmental liability for hundreds of thousands of oil and gas wells could be nearly triple the figure the agency announced earlier this week.

In a report released Wednesday, the Alberta Energy Regulator said the cost of cleaning up the province’s 466,000 wells would be $33.3 billion. That figure is derived partly from estimates of what it would cost to remediate individual wells in different areas of the province, contained in a 2015 document called Directive 11.

But in 2018, the agency produced discussion papers on something called the Closure Liability Assessment Model, designed to create “greater understanding and transparency of liabilities,” one of the papers indicates.

Those documents were obtained under Freedom of Information legislation by University of Calgary researcher Drew Yewchuk and provided to The Canadian Press. They provide a different estimate of the costs faced by industry and, potentially, Alberta taxpayers.

For almost every region of the province, the documents suggest Directive 11’s estimates of what it would cost to clean up a well are too low.

The documents suggest that for the boreal region, Directive 11’s estimates are 65 per cent too low. In the parkland, they’re 173 per cent short. Costs for the foothills region were underestimated by 334 per cent, and the figure for the alpine was 675 per cent shy.

In total, the documents suggest the liability estimates derived from Directive 11 that inform Wednesday’s report were low by 263 per cent.

The documents suggest the total cost of well cleanup to be about $88 billion.

The documents also estimate liabilities not included in Wednesday’s report.

They point out the province has 59,000 abandoned and inactive oil and gas facilities that need remediation. They could add an extra $1.4 billion for pipeline closures – although that figure seemed in doubt.

“True status of ‘operating’ pipelines not known,” the documents say.

As well, the documents say Directive 11’s determinations of where the wells were located were also inaccurate, affecting its estimate.

“Large differences existed in the distribution of sites,” they say. “(It’s) necessary to project costs to the population of sites to account for true distribution of wells within reclamation regions and enable accurate estimation.”

Those documents never saw the light of day.

“The “¦ Leadership Committee decided to delay public implementation “¦ due to implications of recognized higher liabilities from investors and public (too much change too soon),” the documents say.

Regulator spokesman Renato Gandia said in an email the documents relied on “limited data inputs and used many assumptions resulting in a hypothetical scenario.”

Gandia said the regulator is moving toward using data collected from industry on closure spending for specific activities and pieces of infrastructure.

“This approach is now collecting specific information to eventually replace the current methodology in Directive 11. When we have sufficient data reported (actual spend values for different types of closure work), the new methodology will provide a much more accurate figure.”

But Yewchuk said the 2018 estimates are still the most up-to-date figures the regulator has.

“There’s always going to be a possibility of getting better information. You have to act on what you have,” Yewchuk said. “The information they’re still relying on is worse than this stuff.”

Eight energy companies were involved in the 2018 program, which analyzed data from 4,302 reclamation sites – although the documentsnote complete information only existed for 23 per cent of those sites.

In a Wednesday interview with The Canadian Press after the report was released, the regulator’s manager of liability management, David Hardie, said the watchdog couldn’t say if the number was an underestimate or an overestimate.

Yewchuk said the regulator has to level with Albertans about the costs of cleaning up after the industry that has floated their economy for generations.

“This is internal evidence saying costs are going up. And the (regulator) has known they were going up,” Yewchuk said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2024.

Alberta releases first report on well cleanup; $33B liability estimate called too low

By Bob Weber, The Canadian Press on January 17, 2024.
A pumpjack draws out oil from a well head near Calgary on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. Alberta's Energy Regulator has released its first report on efforts to clean up thousands of old oil and gas wells that dot the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Alberta’s oil and gas producers spent nearly $700 million in 2022 on cleaning up the hundreds of thousands of old wells that dot the province, the regulator’s first report on the extent of those liabilities indicates.

That’s 65 per cent more than they were required to spend under provincial rules and they took 8,000 inactive wells off the books, the report says.

“Industry is moving infrastructure toward closure,” said Chad Newton, the regulator’s manager of planning. “Industry did a good job.”

But the report also says the industry faces a $33-billion environmental liability from the remaining wells – a figure that critics say is far too low and based on old cost estimates the auditor general has already criticized.

“They’re using a system that they’ve admitted underestimates liabilities,” said Martin Olszynski, a University of Calgary resource lawyer and frequent critic of Alberta’s remediation policies.

Alberta has 466,000 oil and gas wells. The report says only about a third of them are active and only about one-tenth produce more than 10 barrels a day. About a fifth have been reclaimed.

The report says more than $1.2 billion was spent on well closure in 2022. That reduced the number of inactive wells in Alberta by nine per cent in a single year.

It found that 90 per cent of licence holders complied with closure spending requirements. Those that didn’t make up only one per cent of the total spending requirement.

Previous well closure programs allowed companies to focus on groups of wells that were relatively easy to clean up. The fact $145 million was spent in 2022 on remediation suggests that’s no longer the case, said liability adviser Anita Lewis.

“The remediation ones typically are the more difficult sites because they have contamination associated with that,” she said.

The report found financially shaky companies accounted for seven per cent of the province’s well liabilities. It also concluded that the regulator has no information on the remediation status of nearly a quarter of oil and gas facilities other than wells – although that information is being gathered, it said.

Final remediation spending figures from 2023 aren’t yet available.

But much of the 2022 money – $383 million – came from the Ottawa-funded Site Rehabilitation Program. Less than half that was budgeted for that program in 2023, so despite requirements for industry to spend $700 million on cleanup, total spending is likely to have significantly fallen last year.

“It would appear the spending has already peaked,” said Olszynski.

Olszynski said the report’s liability figure was derived at least partly from estimates of well cleanup costs that were first published in 2015. That was pointed out in March by Alberta’s auditor general, but they’re still being used, Olszynski said.

“How are they still publishing numbers that they know are incorrect?” he asked.

David Hardie, the regulator’s manager of liability management, acknowledged the liability estimate is wobbly.

“We can’t say it’s an underestimate (or) an overestimate,” he said.

Hardie said the regulator will calculate liability in the future based on actual industry-reported costs of remediation. That data isn’t in yet.

“We are going to replace that methodology once we receive this information,” Hardie said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2024.

Gas well sites to be reclaimed to allow development west of city

Al Beeber – [email protected]

Updated by Lethbridge Herald on October 31, 2023.

A Calgary-based energy company is soon starting a reclamation project of four sweet natural gas wells west of the Copperwood subdivision.

The project will enable the continued growth of residential development in west Lethbridge.

Tamarack Valley Energy Ltd. is publicizing the work so residents don’t misinterpret the project and assume it’s a well drilling operation.

Sweet gas is natural gas that contains little or no hydrogen sulfide.

Mike Anderson, manager of Surface Land for Tamarack, said Tuesday service rigs and drilling rigs look similar. After an uproar over a West Lethbridge Tamarack project several years ago, the company is taking pro-active measures so the public is well informed of its work.

While work was to begin today, company is waiting for the ground to dry up a bit before starting it, Anderson said.

Tamarack has a number of assets in the Lethbridge and also operates on the Blood Reserve. It also has assets in northern Alberta.

The company is abandoning four gas wells and the associated pipelines west of Copperwood “to make way for the further expansion of housing in Lethbridge,” said Anderson.

Tamarack will be putting a service rig on the wells and will be going down to the producing formation about 1,000 metres deep to plug off the formation that produced gas by putting in a cement plug.

The wells are abandoned right to surface and the surface casing is cut off about three metres below ground and a steel cap is welded on. Then the land is reclaimed and put back “to the equivalent land use capability of the surrounding land,” said Anderson.

The wells have all been operational since the mid 1990s, said Anderson.

“One of the parcels of land has been recently purchased by a developer and it’s my understanding they’re working on a housing development plan and there’s a couple others that are kind of similar in nature. They’re not impacted by development but it’s my understanding the City wants to put basically a ring road through the area and high-voltage power. So ultimately at the end of the day we’ll be in the way of those if we don’t remove this stuff and all of our assets there are sort of nearing end of life.

“We’ve got pretty much all the resource we’re going to get out of the ground and it’s time to get them out of the way before we’ve got a whole bunch of other construction equipment and whatnot going out there because that just makes things a little more challenging,” added Anderson.

If the wells were brand new and were producing a significant cash flow “it becomes a more challenging conversation but it’s not the City that’s driving this. We’re looking at wells that are in proximity to houses and stuff like that and for our own corporate interest, we’re aware of the sensitivities of drilling operations in Lethbridge,” said Anderson.

The company drilled a well on farm land within city limits in 2018. The company had been granted a licence by the Alberta Energy Regulator that year to drill a production well within city limits.

After learning of the well city council in February, 2019 passed a resolution to make their opposition and concerns known to the company and province.

“There was quite an uproar,” Anderson recalled.

“A service rig looks very much like a drilling rig and when it’s lit up at night on pretty flat Prairie out there it will be seen by people and if people don’t know in advance it’s a service rig doing abandonment work, and they make the assumption it’s a drilling rig drilling a new well we’ll probably have the same kind of kerfuffle as last time,” said Anderson.

“That’s why we’ve been in touch with the City administration and giving them the heads up of what our plans are,” Anderson added.

The company is monitoring weather and ground conditions before starting the reclamation project. Tamarack has field employees based here who are apprising the company of conditions.

“These are we call minimal disturbance locations, in other words there’s no built-up access road to the well. Because these were sweet shallow gas wells, operators would typically only go to these things once a month. So they could wait until the ground conditions were good to just drive on the top soil of the field and check the well and come out,” said Anderson.

“We’re being very cognizant of ground conditions to make sure that we’re going in under the right conditions.”

The work will take three to four days to complete per well, he said.

“We need to make sure we’ve got a good three to four day weather window for each well to get in there and get out without causing any damage.”

Rural Albertans Say Federally Backed Wind Project Is Fraught With Problems

Locals speak of difficulties on front line of renewable energy push

The federal government has chosen as its renewable energy partner in Alberta a project that residents of Paintearth County have wrangled over for years.

By Tara MacIsaac

The Epoch Times


Rural Alberta’s acreage owners, such as those in Paintearth County, are among those who could lose the most in the nation's rapid push toward renewable energy.

Paintearth County already hosts two wind farms, with another under construction. But a fourth project has had locals wrangling for several years with both the power company behind it and provincial and county officials, as well as with each other.

And it is this contentious project, called Halkirk 2 Wind, that the federal government is partnering with to power its buildings in the province. The project, which will be located on approximately 17,000 acres of privately owned land, was approved by the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) in July.

The Halkirk 2 project is emblematic of problems arising in some communities across Alberta, residents say, where renewable energy has been pushed forward with greater speed than anywhere else in the country.

While the province has put a moratorium on large-scale wind and solar projects to review concerns, some Paintearth residents are skeptical the review will address all the issues. They have developed a mistrust of the AUC, which is leading the review.

They also feel defeated by the favour the federal government has shown the project, with a 23-year contract valued up to $500 million awarded to Edmonton-based Capital Power, announced in February. When construction is complete, the project will supply about 50 percent of its energy output to power the federal buildings, the company says.

That’s the “icing on the cake,” Donna Fetaz told The Epoch Times, at the end of several long years' fight against aspects of the project she says are problematic.

Ms. Fetaz and her husband, Gerard Fetaz, have shared out-of-pocket costs with their neighbours totalling more than $400,000 to fight what they say has been underhanded dealings to push the project forward.

The problems they and others have raised include alleged lying by land agents bent on convincing locals to sign onto the project back in 2015. Residents have alleged the agents told each of them that their neighbours had already signed on, so they might as well, too.

Also, at issue is flooding on local properties, fire hazard concerns over difficult-to-maintain transmission lines, and logistical concerns for aerial crop-spraying.

While some in the region support the project, which brings tax revenue to the area and land-use revenue to some landowners, the Fetazes and about 20 other residents who are part of the Paintearth Protection Association continue to voice concerns.

Capital Power did not reply to Epoch Times inquiries as of publication. Some of its arguments are laid out, however, in a July 27 decision by the AUC to approve a revised version of Halkirk 2.

The AUC approved the original project of 74 turbines in 2018. Capital Power chose to revise that plan, opting instead for up to 35 larger turbines, each with greater output. The revised plan gives some ground to the concerns of the Fetazes and others. But it still falls short, they say, and the amount of resources they've had to put into fighting for that ground is too much.

AUC spokesperson Richard Goldberger told The Epoch Times via email that the commission has tried to support residents through information sessions, some funding for legal aid, and other means.

“The AUC’s public interest mandate involves balancing a number of, oftentimes competing interests, to arrive at a decision,” Mr. Goldberger said. “These include assessing a project’s potential adverse effects but also the benefits of a proposed project. The scope of this assessment also takes into account the potential impact on specific individuals or groups of individuals and the public generally.”

Balancing of Public Interest

The July 27 decision discusses the AUC's balancing of public interest. For example, it noted that local farmers complained planned turbines are too close to their fields, which will prevent them from aerial spraying their crops safely.

At AUC hearings on the revised plan, which ran from April 24 to 28, a Capital Power representative said the company would shut down the turbines for spraying with 24 hours' notice. But the farmers said that’s impractical, as the weather can change and sometimes spraying needs to happen immediately.

The AUC said Capital Power's offer was sufficient, but it should try to shut down the turbines more quickly. The commission said the farmers’ testimony, along with written testimony from an aerial sprayer, was not strong enough evidence to prove the turbines would be a problem. It said live testimony from an expert would have been better.

The AUC provides some compensation for expert testimony, but the Fetazes said they still shared a $50,000 bill with one of their neighbours for one expert whose costs were beyond what the commission would cover.

"Based on what we've seen, the AUC is very hesitant to take any kind of a position that might impede development," resident Carmen Felzien told The Epoch Times. "If you make the right argument, if you use the right lawyers, if you invest enough money, then perhaps you can have them put a condition on that may or may not answer what you're asking for."

A Capital Power representative said at the hearing that the company would find a solution for Ms. Felzien's concerns that her mother's land would be flooded when one of the turbines is built over a nearby drainage ditch. However, the AUC did not put in a requirement.

"The ongoing feeling on the ground here is that the developers promise all kinds of pretty things—the AUC says, 'Oh, good, isn't that nice'—and then they proceed to do whatever they want," Ms. Felzien said. "And the only recourse we have is to go back to the AUC ... and they may or may not take us seriously."

Experiences With AUC

Resident Brian Perreault has experienced costly flooding from a substation that services Capital Power's Halkirk 1, already in operation for 11 years, and will service Halkirk 2. It was built over a drainage ditch and the water was diverted toward his land. The AUC delayed addressing his concerns, which he brought forth in 2019, the Fetazes said.

The AUC told him he would have to attend proceedings regarding the station, for which he hired a lawyer and engineer. After that, the commission told him it was a ministry of environment issue. Finally, in July this year a ministry representative met with Mr. Perreault to look at the damage.

A ministry spokesperson confirmed to The Epoch Times that the matter is currently being evaluated.

This back-and-forth is characteristic of the Fetazes' experience with the AUC as well, they said.

In response to Mr. Perreault's and the Fetazes' complaints about AUC communication, AUC's Mr. Goldberger noted the information the commission makes available to stakeholders, including having staff available throughout the proceedings to answer questions.

Mr. Fetaz recalled that when he asked at an AUC hearing in 2017 what the safe distance was for a turbine from an aerodrome, that information wasn't forthcoming. "Dead air," he said. "It was just dead air." It took independent research to find the answer, and much money to pay a lawyer to present it on their behalf.

The Fetazes have had some hard-won victories over some eight years of going to the AUC, and even above the AUC, to the ombudsman who oversees it. For example, the number of turbines close to their aerodrome has been reduced.

The version of Halkirk 2 that the AUC approved in 2018 had 17 turbines closer to their aerodrome than the 4,000-metre buffer recommended by Transport Canada. The revised version has only one closer than that, at about 2,800 metres, and the AUC has asked Capital Power to submit further safety information on that turbine and two others of concern.

‘The Little Guy’

"Landowners go into it so blindsided," Ms. Fetaz said. "They don't even know what they don't know, and you trust the system to do things right."

She said that before this started, she had never written a letter to the government. She didn't have internet. But she's had to learn the ins and outs of regulations, procedures, appeals, and more.

Ms. Felzien said she's not against wind power "when it’s done carefully and thoughtfully.” But she and others say they've felt a lack of respect from Capital Power representatives from the start.

They “belittle and demean” residents and have been "mocking" and “running roughshod” over them, Ms. Felzien said. Another resident, Steve Maier, said Capital Power has “strong-armed and bullied their way through it” and “they always want to run over the little guy.”

Mr. Maier has an airstrip, which he uses recreationally, and the AUC determined it has a lower public-interest priority than two planned turbines that will interfere with his flying.

He said he acknowledges his neighbours' rights to lease their land to Capital Power, and he's not against the project on the whole. But he feels there were other viable locations for the two turbines that wouldn't have interfered with the use of his land.

He invested in the land a little over a decade ago because he wanted space for an airstrip and wanted the open, beautiful landscape, he said.

Mr. Maier was never directly informed that turbines would be close to his land, aside from a general notice sent to everyone in the area about the project.

"Basically, they're saying it's in your court to fight it."

He said he is a working man with a family and doesn't have time to fight it. "I'm just trying to pay my mortgage. I don't have the time, and they probably know that."

Daryl Bennett, director of landowner advocacy group Action Surface Rights, has worked with the residents of Paintearth on their appeals over the years. He told The Epoch Times of similar experiences with dozens of other wind and solar projects he has helped negotiate across the province.

“We've been raising these issues for 10 years,” he said. “There's always bad actors. We need to try to figure out a way that resolves a bunch of those concerns and allow renewable energy to go ahead.”

Landowner update re Fulton Judicial Review & Notice of Additional Legal Challenges

Well-intentioned? Danielle Smith’s new plan hits a nerve in Alberta

Pilot project to clean up oil wells taps into province’s cherished energy royalties.

By Alex Boyd
Staff Reporter
Monday, February 20, 2023

SHOULDICE, Alta.—The section of pipe jutting out of the field has begun to decay, a small patch of gravel the only evidence of where a pumpjack once bobbed like a giant metal bird, drawing more crude oil from the ground with each dip of its head.

Every day it produced, every day a truck would take the products of its labour away.

That was, until the day its owner could no longer pay the bills — and so took the equipment they could and walked away.

“This particular well is in Never Neverland,” says Kelly Nelson, the farmer in whose field the well languishes, occupying a fenced patch of land about the size of two city lots. Besides the well itself, there’s a section of piping and a towering storage container that’s turned to rust.

“That’s a well that is abandoned. Nobody’s looking after it,” she says, sounding resigned. As far as she knows, it’s not on the radar of the provincial regulator or the association designed to deal with so-called orphan wells.

It’s an example of what might be the biggest problem looming over the oil industry in Alberta that most non-Albertans have never heard of.

As this province’s oil industry grew, it became quite common for an oil company to show up and announce it would be putting equipment in someone’s field, their yard or their town.

Saying no wasn’t an option. That’s not hyperbole. In Alberta, about 80 per cent of the mineral rights in the province are owned by the Crown, so when an oil company is granted the rights to explore, there isn’t much a landowner can do.

The boom and bust nature of the oil industry has left this province littered with aging equipment. It’s been left behind by companies that went bankrupt, judged it cheaper to just keep paying the rent required for wells or that simply abandoned it. It’s detritus that gets in the way of farmers and risks contaminating the ground and the air.

The cost of cleaning up 10,000 orphan wells in Alberta and Saskatchewan will, by 2025, reach $1 billion, according to a parliamentary budget report released last year.

It’s a number that critics have criticized for being too low — and for not including the 7,400 wells that are abandoned but not fully orphaned, or the 225,000 wells in the two provinces that are inactive, but whose future is uncertain.

Now, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is championing a new program to speed cleanup of the equipment left behind.

The new provincial $100 million pilot project, called the Liability Management Incentive Program, would reward companies who clean up wells that are at least 20 years old by giving them a future royalty credit, which would mean they’d have to give less of their future profits back to the province. It’s drawing fire for essentially paying companies to do what they’re already legally obligated to, and for using royalties, the financial bounty meant to compensate all Albertans for the exploitation of their natural resources.

There is a social contract upon which modern Alberta is built.

It’s an understanding that stretches back to a farm outside Leduc in 1947, when the province’s first major oil discovery took place with an unexpected gush of oil and a fireball that shot 15 metres into the air. (A museum in Leduc devoted to that moment still opens its doors most days from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

Yes, oil can be hard on the environment in general and tough on landowners specifically, but in return for the imposition of equipment on private land and tailings ponds in the boreal forest, the industry agrees to clean up its own messes and has gushed billions of dollars into government coffers in the form of royalties, money that helps fuel low taxes, high social spending and a quality of life that many Albertans would argue is the envy of the country.

Oil makes up a huge part of the Alberta budget, from the oilsands in particular. Right now, the war in Ukraine and fears of an oil shortage have the industry booming — thanks to a combination of those higher prices and projects reaching maturity, at which point they pay a higher rate. The Alberta government said last fall that oilsands royalties this year are expected to reach north of $20 billion, a number that is almost double what was initially forecast, and would set a new record. When you consider that total revenue for the year was initially predicted to be almost $63 billion, the outsized importance of oil is clear.

Yet, there’s a saying in Alberta that goes something like this: God grant me another boom, and we promise not to piss it away again. But with a tsunami of new royalty revenue on the way, some are worried Alberta is about to do just that.

Landowners are often quick to point out that they’re not anti-oil. Indeed, it can be hard for many to speak out, given how ubiquitous the industry is here. Grinding one’s teeth about well cleanup can be taken as criticism of your sister or your neighbour’s livelihood.

At Nelson’s farm, the orphan well is just a short drive from her house. It’s been about five years since the company that owned it went bankrupt and walked away. Now, it’s a chunk of land that grows nothing but weeds that threaten nearby crops, an obstacle around which Nelson’s son must maneuver hulking farm equipment, and a potential risk to a creek nearby.

But if you were to go downwards, beneath the gravel and the crop stubble and the layer of soil, you would enter the domain of the Alberta government, and by extension, the world of oil and gas.

For a long time, Nelson says, many wells were welcomed, when oil companies maintained their equipment, sprayed for weeds and paid their annual rent — usually a few thousand dollars — on time. There was a time, she says, when some of her fields were dotted with the red lights of pump jackets at nighttime.

And most of the almost 20 wells on her land now are operational or in line for cleanup — but not all.

“It’s for the ‘greater good,’” says Nelson, who’s a councillor of the county of Vulcan, making air quotes with her hands. “But you know, they’re not going to go into city and drill next to your house.”
Kelly Nelson pictured at her farm near Shouldice, Alberta.

Environmental law in Alberta is based on the idea of what’s known as polluter pay, which means that whoever makes a mess has to clean it up. Oil companies are legally obligated to clean up their own wells, but don’t always do it.

There is the Land and Property Rights Tribunal, which hears disputes between operators and landowners, and a body called the Orphan Well Association, funded by oil companies, which is working to clean up wells with no other owner.

Still, landowners are often left holding the bag. Sometimes the well gets passed from company to company, sometimes paying rent on the site is cheaper than reclaiming it, and sometimes the producer goes out of business.

It’s a problem that has infuriated many landowners.

“Society put the rules in place, that industry could take our land, force their way on, exploit the resources for the benefit of all society,” says Daryl Bennett, a farmer near Taber, Alta., and director of a landowner group called Action Surface Rights.

“On condition that they would pay for the annual income inconvenience, and then pay to clean it up.”

Oil companies are granted a lot of leeway. Landowners aren’t able to say no to an operator looking to put a well on their land. You can try to negotiate nicely. One surface rights advocate says he’s seen people ask for a drill to be put in the corner of their field, or even across the road, away from water or specialty crops such as potatoes or canola.

Often companies accommodate, but sometimes they don’t, dotting fields with equipment and putting up fences that, in one case, separated cow from calves, or, in another, herds from water. Roads built to access wells can track in invasive weeds or chemicals can seep into land long after they stop producing.

There have been other recent efforts to speed the cleanup. During the pandemic, when oil prices had sunk, the federal government announced a billion dollars to help with cleanup, in a move that was partially billed as a job generator at a time of economic uncertainty.

But the premier has argued a fresh approach is needed.

“I suppose we could keep on doing things the way we’ve always done them and get the same result,” she told reporters earlier this month.

“I’ve been following the case of abandonments and suspended wells and the long-term liability of sites going back to the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s that have not been in active service that are still not cleaned up. So that’s just not tolerable to me. I think that we owe it to the landowners to make sure that those sites get cleaned up.”

The new provincial program has a relatively narrow focus — it doesn’t tackle orphan wells such as the one on Nelson’s land. Furthermore, given the fact that credits are applied to future activity, it will only be appealing to companies that are currently producing and therefore, critics say, arguably already able to pay for their own cleanup, particularly as oil prices spike to a generational high.

The proposal has sparked serious criticism, and not just from the freshman premier’s expected political opponents. Scotiabank has warned that the plan could give the whole industry a black eye. In a report, the bank pointed out that major oilsands players would financially benefit, and that the program goes against a core capitalist principle — that companies pay for their own messes.

The backdrop to the debate is the fact that, thanks to factors such as the war in Ukraine, Alberta has never produced more oil.

“It’s corporate socialism,” says Duane Bratt, a professor of politics at Calgary’s Mount Royal. “The profits go to private companies, and the costs go to the taxpayers. That’s great for industry.”

“If I was an oil company, why would I do any cleaning up right now? I would just ignore that and wait for more money to flow through,” he adds. “There’s a real moral hazard to what the government is doing.”

The use of provincial royalties to fund the program has also hit a nerve. While the appropriate level royalties has been debated for decades, what’s clear is that they’re seen as belonging to Albertans. “This is a sale of a depleting resource that’s owned by the people. Once a barrel of oil goes down the pipeline, it’s gone forever. It’s like a farmer selling off his topsoil,” storied Alberta premier Peter Loughheed said, decades ago.

“We get our pound of flesh,” then premier Ralph Klein countered in 2006.

Muddying the waters is the fact that before Smith was premier, she was a lobbyist for this exact program, then called RStar, raising uncomfortable questions for some about her motivations.

“I mean, if she was premier of Alberta, and was being paid by these companies to bring in our RStar, that is corruption, and she would have to resign,” Bratt says.

“But what happens when she was paid prior to becoming premier, and is now implementing it?”

Paul McLauchlin, the president of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta and reeve of Ponoka, Alta., spent much of the pandemic raising the alarm about what he estimates is the quarter billion dollars in unpaid taxes the oil industry owes towns and villages across the province — and arguing for policy changes to address those debts, changes that have largely not come to pass.

He marvels at the speed at which this new policy was enacted in comparison. His organization sent representatives to a recent meeting with the energy minister at which the program, which is technically still a pilot, was presented as “pretty much a done deal.”

“A lot of this is frustration on … is this the best way to address the issue?”

He points out that the province has the Alberta Energy Regulator, a body he argues has dropped the ball in not dealing with these issues sooner. An environmental scientist by trade with several wells on his own land, he points out that this question has hung over the province for decades, and it’s time for Alberta, if not the rest of the country, to have a real reckoning with the cost of an industry that has contributed so much.

“It’s a crucially important conversation, because this is really about the future of Alberta. I don’t see oil and gas going away in Alberta, but I definitely see it changing, and this is the time to make good decisions,” he says.

Looking out over the fields where, once the last crusts of snow finally melt, her family will begin planting crops such as peas and canola, Nelson gestures with frustration at the patch of land where, technically, she’s not even allowed to mow the grass or control the weeds.

“I don’t think most people realize that, as farmers, we care so much for the land,” she says. “We have to have them on here and we can deal with that. You know, whatever. When the company is running, it’s fine.

“But when this happens, then we become concerned, because how can we clean this up? We’re not allowed to touch anything, we don’t get a say.”

Alex Boyd is a Calgary-based reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @alex_n_boyd

Confusion, lack of clarity dog Alberta plans to clean up old well sites

Story by Joel Dryden • February 14, 2023 5:00 a.m.

CBC News

With the Alberta government facing pushback to its plan to give oil and gas companies a royalty break to clean up old well sites, questions are mounting about how the program will function and who, ultimately, will pay for it.

The proposed pilot project dubbed the Liability Management Incentive Program, previously known as RStar, has in recent days garnered criticism from economists, landowners, analysts and the Opposition NDP.

Late last week, it also drew a warning from analysts with Scotiabank, who wrote in a report that though the program could benefit some producers, it had the potential to generate "negative public sentiment toward the sector."

"Moreover, we also believe the program goes against the core capitalist principle that private companies should take full responsibility for the liabilities they willingly accept," the report reads.

The province has said that the program, which would involve $100 million in royalty breaks, is still in development and no final decisions have been made. Producers pay royalties to the province for extracting resources that the province owns on behalf of all Albertans.

Oil companies largely appear to be reserving comment on the proposed plan. On Monday, a spokesperson with Cenovus said the company was assessing the program.

"We'll determine how it may affect our plans after we've seen more details," the Calgary-based company wrote in a statement to CBC News, adding it's about halfway through its well site reclamation inventory target.

Between 2019 and 2021, Cenovus said it received 1,455 reclamation certificates from the Alberta Energy Regulator.

In a statement sent Tuesday morning, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) senior special advisor Brad Herald said that there had been a "dramatic acceleration" in well cleanup.

"Industry, orphan well funds, the federal government and provincial governments have all played key roles in updating liability management policies and policy supports to make this happen," Herald wrote.

"We look forward to the consultation process with the Alberta Government on their proposed Liability Management Incentive Program and will work to ensure the momentum built in the reclamation of legacy sites in Alberta continues."

Opposition has suggested lobbying a 'huge concern'

Kathleen Ganley, the NDP's energy critic, has called it a "huge concern" that Smith had lobbied for an oil well cleanup bailout prior to re-entering politics.

Over the weekend, Smith told her audience on a province-wide radio show that governments of the past shared the blame for wells that hadn't been cleaned up effectively.

"Because we're targeting it so closely on the worst wells, we're looking at sites, for instance, that have been inactive for 20 years that were drilled prior to 1990, so these are kind of the worst of the worst sites," Smith said, arguing regulators had failed to require cleanup from companies in the past.

Andrew Leach, an economics professor at the University of Alberta, said Monday the premier's comments suggest industry was prepared to leave liabilities on the landscape indefinitely.

"When the premier comes out and says, 'This is reclamation that would not have otherwise happened,' that's a big shot across the bow to the industry," Leach said.

"Because she's essentially saying, 'You oil and gas producers are not going to meet your legal obligations to Albertans.'"

Though the program has nothing to do with oilsands, Leach added that such an approach had future implications for other liabilities on the landscape, such as massive oilsands tailing ponds and site reclamation.

During a press conference held Monday to discuss Alberta's TIER fund, Sonya Savage was asked about comments she had made during her time as energy minister stating that the RStar program wouldn't fit within Alberta's royalty structure, and would violate the province's polluter-pays principle.

Savage acknowledged those comments, but noted the pilot project was under consultation and directed questions around the pilot project to the current energy ministry.

Energy minister met with landowner groups

Leach added that questions loom about how the program will work and who will be covered.

"Are we talking about wells that are literally, from a regulatory perspective, orphans, or are we talking about wells that are still owned by operating entities?" he said.

In response to a request for comment requiring clarification over which sites could qualify for the pilot, a spokesperson for Energy Minister Peter Guthrie said such details would be made available when development of the pilot program is complete.

"Minister Guthrie was very clear that stakeholders would be engaged as part of this process and that is what we're doing," wrote Gabrielle Symbalisty in an email.

"This pilot program will target some of the oldest sites in the province that have not produced oil and gas for many years. Our goal is to shrink the inventory of inactive and orphaned wells and create jobs across Alberta."

Guthrie was instructed to develop such a targeted program as a part of his mandate letter last fall. On Thursday, Guthrie met with landowner groups to discuss the project.

Daryl Bennett, director of Action Surface Rights Association and the Alberta Surface Rights Federation, said the meeting lasted around two hours, and included staff from the Alberta Energy Regulator.

Bennett said he didn't attend the meeting but two representatives of the group did.

In an interview, Bennett said it was one of the best meetings the organization has had in terms of receiving access to the minister.

"I'll be frank, from a landowner perspective: we want the wells cleaned up," he said.

"And the original social contract was society can take our land, expropriate it, extract resources, with a guarantee you're going to clean up the mess," Bennett added, noting the organization prefers industry pays for it.

"But if they're unable to do it, then the taxpayer does have some responsibility. But at a time of record profits, I think the taxpayer should be insisting that industry pays a little bit more."

In Vulcan County, where hundreds of wells with no owners need to be cleaned up, there is confusion surrounding why taxpayers could be left footing the bill to clean up the messes oil companies made, said Reeve Jason Schneider.

"We're going on about seven years, where we've had companies that have operated without paying their taxes," he said.

"Now, it's a small number of them, but between those companies and companies who walked away from their liabilities, we're over $9 million worth of taxes that haven't been collected.

"So I guess we're a little disappointed to see the province move so quickly on this RStar program to give tax credits, when for seven years, they've been ignoring municipalities like ours."

Premier rejects NDP claim oilwell cleanup help is linked with her leadership campaign

Follow The Lethbridge Herald on Twitter Follow @Leth_Herald on twitter

By The Canadian Press on February 11, 2023.

EDMONTON – Alberta’s premier is rejecting Opposition claims her planned $100-million pilot project for cleaning up old oil wells was influenced by her United Conservative party leadership campaign, arguing that federal money to get the job done missed many of the province’s worst sites.

Speaking on her province-wide radio call-in show Saturday, Danielle Smith noted the worst wells have been inactive for decades and repeated her argument that government shares some of the blame for the fact regulators let companies off without fulfilling their responsibilities.

Smith said many of the companies that left those wells without cleaning them up aren’t around anymore.

“Because we’re targeting it so closely on the worst wells, we’re looking at sites, for instance, that have been inactive for 20 years that were drilled prior to 1990, so these are kind of the worst of the worst sites,” Smith told listeners Saturday after being asked about the NDP’s claims the program is linked with her leadership fundraising.

“Now we’re left with somebody holding the bag that may not have been responsible for the initial liability. We have regulators who allowed for those transfers to occur. We have regulators in the past who didn’t require cleanup.”

“I think we have to take some of the responsibility as government for the fact that we didn’t manage it the way that we should have historically.”

NDP Energy critic Kathleen Ganley said Friday it’s a “huge concern” that before Smith re-entered politics, she lobbied for an oil well cleanup bailout that she made a government priority when she became premier.

The sources of the $1.3 million Smith raised for her leadership campaign last year have not been revealed, and her office has not responded to requests to address questions about how her campaign fundraising has affected her governing priorities.

The Liability Management Incentive Program proposes to give $100 million in royalty breaks to companies that fulfil their legal obligations to restore old oil and gas wells. A royalty is the price Alberta charges a company to develop a resource.

Analysts with Scotiabank said in a report that the proposal “goes against the core capitalist principle that private companies should take full responsibility for the liabilities they willingly accept.”

An Independent legislature member and former member of the UCP caucus, Drew Barnes, has called the plan “corporate welfare.”

Smith on Saturday praised the federal government’s Site Rehabilitation Program which provided $1 billion for well-site recovery, but she noted the program is about to end and that it missed the worst sites.

She said flare pits — which she described as pools of water where waste materials were just thrown in — are the biggest problem and have sat in some cases for 40 to 60 years. She said they’re not being cleaned up because “it’s a huge environmental liability expense companies are worried that they’re not going to be able to get the signoff on it.”

Landowners, she said, are left with the unremediated sites.

“The reason I advocated for this program when I first heard about it was because I feel so passionately about landowner rights. I feel so passionately that this has been a long-term problem. No one’s ever found a way to address it,” Smith told listeners.

Alberta launches talks on proposed tax breaks for oil companies that clean up old wells

Bob Weber
The Canadian Press
Posted: Feb 08, 2023 11:17 AM MST | Last Updated: February 8

The Alberta government is moving ahead with a plan that would give oil and gas companies a tax break for meeting their legal obligations to clean up old well sites, inviting a select group of landowner organizations to a meeting to discuss a pilot project.

On Thursday, Alberta Energy Minister Peter Guthrie is scheduled to host those groups to discuss "a concept for a royalty credit program to incent accelerated oil and gas site closure," indicates a government document that outlines the proposed pilot program, obtained by The Canadian Press.

That pilot program, previously known as RStar and now called the Liability Management Incentive Program, would issue $100 million in credits that qualified companies could use to apply against royalties earned from new production.

Credits would be earned by cleaning up well sites that have been inactive for at least 20 years.

Opposition New Democrat energy critic Kathleen Ganley said there should be a conversation about the pilot project happening with the public.

"They're taking public money and giving it to oil companies to do work they are already legally obligated to do and they're doing it at a time of high oil prices," Ganley said.

The idea has been widely panned by economists, environmentalists, rural municipalities and analysts within Alberta Energy. Critics call the program risky, opaque and a violation of the polluter-pay principle.

"For some reason, we're incentivizing future royalties to eliminate liabilities when profits are high," said Paul McLauchlin of Rural Municipalities Alberta. "It's very confusing to a lot of people."

Alberta landowners dealing with the 170,000 unreclaimed sites on their properties aren't crazy about the idea but need to get those wells cleaned up, said Daryl Bennett of Action Surface Rights, which will attend the meeting.

"It's somewhat regrettable that the taxpayer is left to fund these programs and that royalties will be reduced," Bennett said. "However, landowners are dealing with lots of abandoned wells. It's kind of a catch-22 situation that was never in the social contract."

Not all landowners groups have been invited to the meeting with Guthrie.

Dwight Popowich of the Polluter Pay Federation said his group made repeated requests to attend the session, but have instead been told to meet with department officials.

"If you happen to be a dissenter of any kind, you definitely won't be invited," he said.

Alberta Energy spokesperson Gabrielle Symbalisty said further consultations are planned.

"Indigenous groups, municipalities, industry associations, oil and gas companies, landowners and other groups have been asked to provide feedback on the proposed criteria," she said in an email.

The government document says the program is still in development and no final decisions have been made.

However, some feel the United Conservative Party government has already made up its mind.

"It's moving a lot faster than we expected," said McLauchlin, who has had what he described as "some engagement" on the pilot project.

The proposal has been pushed for years, including by Premier Danielle Smith when she was a business lobbyist. A former RStar lobbyist now works in Smith's Calgary office. The program was part of Guthrie's mandate letter when Smith named him to cabinet.

"I very much get the feeling the fix has been in on this program," said Ganley. "It sounds to me like this (program) was always going to go forward."

Other suggestions to address Alberta's huge abandoned well program exist.

"They could say, 'You're not allowed to drill any more unless you clean up a well,"' Bennett said.

Timelines are another option, said Popowich.

"If a well is shut for 12 months, you've got 18 months to clean it up," he said. "Most jurisdictions have that timeline. Alberta has none."

McLauchlin said other taxes on oilpatch activity have been lifted and wonders why further incentives are needed at a time of record industry profits.

"This is designed by industry," he said. "The engagement with landowners is going to be a day, and then the pilot's going to roll out.

"This (program) hasn't been built from the ground up on what is the big picture liability conversation."


Action Surface Rights updates members on work over past few months

Posted on May 5, 2022By Cole ParkinsonWestwind Weekly News The Action Surface Rights board has been busy with a variety of different work over the past several months. With no Annual General Meeting due to COVID last year, this year the group was able to host one in March and members were updated on what […]

Proposed substation connector power line under scrutiny from landowners

Lethbridge Herald 3 Nov 2021 Collin Gallant SOUTHERN ALBERTA NEWSPAPERS [email protected] Opposition is growing to a proposed power line route in Cypress County that would connect a new wind power project to substations near Medicine Hat. The Winnifred Wind project would be built north of the County of Forty Mile hamlet, located about 14 kilometres […]

Study finds abandoned oil and gas wells place unfair burden on landowners, taxpayers

U OF C STUDYCanadian PressMay 20, 2021 | 6:03 AM CALGARY — A report from the University of Calgary says the costs of Alberta’s growing stock of abandoned and inactive oil and gas wells are falling unfairly on landowners and taxpayers. Braeden Larson of the university’s School of Public Policy says the scope of the […]

Farmers taking oil company to court

By Jensen, Randy on November 11, 2020. Tim Kalinowski Lethbridge Herald [email protected] A class-action lawsuit to be filed against a Calgary-based oil company on behalf of farmers who have not been paid their annual surface lease fees could set a precedent for the rest of the province of Alberta. Guardian Law Group will be launching […]

Alberta picked up $8 million tab for land rent left unpaid by oil and gas companies in 2019

Data obtained via a freedom of information request shows taxpayers are footing the bill for delinquent companies’ payments to private landowners, to the tune of nearly $30 million since 2010 Sharon J. Riley May 22, 2020 6 min read The Alberta government failed to recoup more than $8 million in land rents it paid to […]

New head of Alberta Energy Regulator wants to rebuild confidence in leadership

Laurie Pushor comes into the role with some criticism from opposition critics in both Saskatchewan and Alberta The Canadian Press · Posted: May 02, 2020 8:59 AM MT | Last Updated: May 2 The newly-appointed chief executive officer of the Alberta Energy Regulator says he wants to rebuild confidence in the industry and the regulator. […]

Orphan wells cleanup funding ‘a subsidy to industry,’ says Alberta farmer

Daryl Bennett is grateful for the $1.7M fund, but says companies that abandoned the wells should foot the bill CBC Radio · Posted: Apr 17, 2020 6:02 PM ET | Last Updated: April 17 The federal government says it will employ thousands of people to clean up abandoned oil and gas wells — but an […]

Alberta landowners and legal experts criticize well cleanup bill

By Bob Weber The Canadian Press Posted April 8, 2020 1:34 pm Updated April 8, 2020 10:52 pm Landowners and legal experts say Alberta’s hastily passed bill to help clean up the province’s huge stockpile of abandoned energy facilities harms property rights without addressing why the problem exists in the first place. They say the […]

Alberta to give $100-million loan to decommission orphan wells

Lauren Boothby Edmonton Journal Updated: March 2, 2020 Alberta is offering a $100-million loan to decommission 800 to 1,000 orphan wells, a move that is expected to create 500 direct and indirect jobs in the oil services sector. The investment to the Orphan Well Association (OWA) will help the non-profit start 1,000 environmental site assessments […]

Unpaid bills: Are rural Albertans growing tired of carrying the freight for delinquents in the oilpatch?

There are calls for consolidation as some companies fail to pay their taxes Kyle Bakx · CBC News · Posted: Jan 30, 2020 4:00 AM ET | Last Updated: January 30 There is no denying how much the oilpatch has provided Alberta over all these years — the jobs, tax revenue, government royalties and economic activity […]

Alberta’s farmers’ property rights under attack by the energy industry and the UCP government

Click here to read the Press Release

Group cleaning up old oil wells says Alberta government rules inadequate

8 hrs ago The Canadian Press EDMONTON — A group tasked with cleaning up thousands of abandoned energy facilities in Alberta says the province’s rules for ensuring polluters reclaim their wells before selling them off are inadequate. The industry-funded Orphan Well Association made the criticism in a letter to Alberta’s energy regulator, which is considering a proposed […]

Alberta ranchers, farmers furious over oil and gas companies’ failure to clean up their geriatric wells

And they’re concerned an extra 93,805 wells could become orphaned given Alberta’s economic outlook, completely overwhelming clean-up efforts Geoffrey Morgan Updated: December 18, 2019 Calgary Herald Geriatric orphan wells, boomtowns going bust and the fate of coal-mining towns in the age of renewables: In a four-part series, FP visits Alberta’s forgotten small communities to see […]

As Alberta energy companies struggle to pay their bills, farmers, ranchers and counties feel the pinch

Geoffrey Morgan December 12, 2019 11:29 AM EST Last Updated December 13, 2019 11:48 AM ESTFinancial Post Oil companies’ late or delinquent payments on land leases and municipal taxes are exposing fissures in Alberta’s rural communities Geriatric orphan wells, boomtowns going bust and the fate of coal-mining towns in the age of renewables. In a […]

Proposal sees abandoned oil wells going solar

By Barb Glen Published: November 21, 2019 The Western Producer The plan started as a small pilot project in Alberta but has caught the attention of the provincial energy regulator A plan is taking shape to erect small solar installations on the sites of Alberta’s abandoned oil and gas wells. If successful, it could prove […]

Bad weather cancels sugar beet harvest in southern Alberta

Michael Franklin, Senior Digital Producer @CTVMFranklin Published Friday, November 8, 2019 1:59PM MST Last Updated Friday, November 8, 2019 5:39PM MST LETHBRIDGE – After a long, cold and wet summer, southern Alberta farmers won’t be able to harvest their damaged crops after Canada’s largest sugar company said it doesn’t have the capacity to process it. […]

Farmers lose — and weeds win — when energy companies walk away

When well sites are abandoned, the rent cheques 
often stop while the noxious weeds flourish By Jeff Melchior Published: October 9, 2019Alberta Farmer Express  “Kochia six feet tall and completely covering the whole leases. We have many that look like this. When I phone, no one even answers the phones.” This tweet from Lethbridge-area farmer […]

Landowners’ rights in danger of being eroded, says advocate

Energy association wants review process streamlined, which could limit the ability to raise concerns By Jeff Melchior Published: October 9, 2019 Alberta Farmer Express A growing number of abandoned energy leases in Alberta might make farmers wonder if it’s worth allowing an energy company to come onto their land in the first place. However, a […]

Alberta Energy Regulator’s former CEO grossly mismanaged public funds to create international centre: auditor

Former CEO displayed ‘reckless and wilful disregard’ for the proper management of public funds, report says. Tony Seskus · CBC News · Posted: Oct 04, 2019 1:03 PM ET | Last Updated: October 4 Jim Ellis, shown in an old promotional photo, grossly mismanaged public funds while president of the Alberta Energy Regulator and the […]

AER overhaul a dangerous game

By Lethbridge Herald Opinion September 11, 2019 Grant Sprague and Bev Yee, Alberta deputy ministers of energy and environment respectively, are very capable senior bureaucrats. Here’s hoping they bring to bear all their skills for the review of the Alberta Energy Regulator. They should keep in mind that the review ought not to be the […]

Alberta oil and gas producer cleanup cost estimates set too low, coalition says

By Dan HealingThe Canadian Press          Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. chairman Murray Edwards, left, prepares to address the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 9, 2019. The Alberta Liabilities Disclosure Project says the province’s largest oil and gas companies are underestimating how much it will cost to clean up thousands of oil and gas wells […]

Limited Partnership Provides Valuable New Revenue for Piikani Nation

Altalink News Releases June 4, 2019 CALGARY, ALBERTA — (Globe Newswire – June 4, 2019) – A recently approved limited partnership provides the Piikani Nation the opportunity to make an equity investment in the transmission infrastructure that crosses their land and delivers a valuable new revenue stream for the First Nation. “It’s great to see that this Piikani […]

Renuwell Project

ASRA has been greatly concerned

Action Surface Rights Members, As you are well aware, ASRA has been greatly concerned with the proliferation of inactive and Orphan Wells over the last couple of years. In fact we intervened at the Supreme Court of Canada in the Redwater affair to make sure that any leftover assets of Bankrupt Operators went to reclaim surface leases […]

Farmers call for strong political response to expanding trade obstacles for Canada

By Andy Blatchford The Canadian Press April 9, 2019 Canola farmers whose livelihoods have been targeted by China in its feud with Canada say it’s time for the federal government to be aggressive at the political level in its fight against a growing number of agricultural trade barriers around the world. Several producers told two […]

Cleanup of Alberta’s Abandoned Oil Wells Could Cost $70 Billion

If companies can’t pay, taxpayers could be on the hook. Scattered across Alberta are more than 300,000 oil and gas wells. About 167,000 of them are inactive and abandoned wells that a coalition of landowners, researchers and former regulators call a “ticking time bomb” that will eventually leak, polluting farmlands, forests, waterways and even playgrounds. […]

Alberta’s Mega Oil and Gas Liability Crisis, Explained

A Supreme Court ruling now forces firms to clean up abandoned wells before paying creditors. That doesn’t solve much. By Andrew Nikiforuk 4 Feb 2019 | How will Alberta find the billions of dollars needed to clean up its inactive pipelines, wells, plants and oilsands mines as the oil and gas industry enters its […]

Owners must deal with old oil wells: high court 

Canada Press 3 days ago OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada says the trustee for a bankrupt Alberta energy company cannot simply walk away from unprofitable wells on agricultural land without having to clean up. The high court’s 5-2 ruling overturns an Alberta Court of Appeal ruling that upheld a 2016 decision in the […]

Solar, wind not reliable power

Follow @Leth_Herald on twitter Lethbridge Herald By Letter to the Editor on January 30, 2019. Our provincial NDP government is clearly attempting to ram as much solar and wind power as possible onto our electrical grid before likely losing this spring’s election. They are doing this using an auction format to give the process the […]

Pincher Creek MPC rejects wind project

Follow @LethHerald on twitter December 1, 2018. Tim Kalinowski Lethbridge Herald -PINCHER CREEK [email protected] In a case which could have implications for the provincial government’s ambitious targets for renewable energy generation, the Municipal Planning Commission for the MD of Pincher Creek, which has one of the largest densities of wind farms in southern Alberta, rejected […]

The story of Alberta’s $100-billion well liability problem. How did we get here?

The Narwhal Sharon J. Riley Alberta investigative reporter Landowners once promised a fair share for hosting oil and gas infrastructure on their properties say Alberta’s liability management system is broken. They’re worried the regulator has long been propping up the industry by exaggerating profits and underestimating the costs of cleanup — often leaving landowners with […]

The truth about dairy farming in Canada

by Kyle Edwards Oct 4, 2018 With producers predicting more than $1 billion in losses and demanding compensation, we took a hard look at the state of the industry—here and across the border The morning after the U.S. and Canada reached a deal to save NAFTA, the Dairy Farmers of Canada put out a press […]

Alberta dairy farmer explains why he’s disappointed with NAFTA replacement

By Kyle Benning Videographer Global News Conrad van Hierden says he is feeling a little sour following the Canadian government’s announcement that they have reached a deal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The dairy farmer from Fort Macleod says he is sick of being used as a pawn after learning of […]

Alberta milk producers slam new North American trade agreement: ‘What do I do now?’

By Kaylen Small Online Journalist Global News Under the newly-negotiated U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), American dairy producers will get expanded access into the Canadian market. Alberta Milk said the province’s more than 520 dairy farms will now be told to produce less milk, resulting in a smaller paycheque. Mike Southwood, general manager of Alberta Milk, is […]

Canadian dairy farmers slam new trade agreement, say it will have ‘dramatic impact’

By Staff The Canadian Press October 1, 2018 WASHINGTON – Canadian dairy farmers are panning the renegotiated trade pact between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, saying the deal will undercut the industry by limiting exports and opening up the market to more American products. Dairy Farmers of Canada issued a terse statement soon after the […]

RCMP, Alberta government say plan to fight rural crime is paying off

Lauren Krugel AIRDRIE, Alta. The Canadian Press Published September 4, 2018 The Alberta government and RCMP say rural property crime fell by 11 per cent in the first half of this year thanks to a new policing strategy that targets the most prolific offenders. In March, the province announced $10-million in funding to hire more […]

Notley pulling Alberta out of federal climate plan after latest Trans Mountain pipeline setback

By Phil Heidenreich Online journalist   Global News Hours after a stunning Federal Court of Appeal decision in which Ottawa’s approval of the contentious Trans Mountain pipeline expansion was overturned, Premier Rachel Notley addressed Albertans about the latest hurdle to come before the project and dropped a political bombshell of her own. “Signing on to […]

Trans Mountain pipeline court decision ‘a real sad day for Alberta,’ says energy expert

By Spencer Gallichan-Lowe Online journalist Global News Reaction to the Federal Court decision to quash the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline project from Alberta stakeholders was swift on Thursday. “It’s a real sad for Alberta and for Canada in terms of what it’s going to mean for our economy,” said Richard Masson, executive fellow at the […]

The Redwater Decision – Why citizens may soon be liable for more oil and gas industry messes

By Michael Ganley June 26, 2018 All across this province, from the banks of the Peace River to the barley fields of Lethbridge County, 155,000 holes have been drilled in the ground that share four characteristics: They were made to release oil and gas from the Earth’s crust; they’ve produced as much hydrocarbon as they’re […]

Farmers play waiting game as flooding delays seeding

  Tim Kalinowski Lethbridge Herald [email protected] April 18, 2018 During this time last year, local farmer Colten Bodie was seeding his land, but this year’s unusual weather and overland flooding will cause delays. He estimates about 40 per cent of his farmland in Lethbridge County is underwater. While in the short term overland flooding in […]

Overland flooding in area results in other concerns

Dave Mabell April 18, 2018 Lethbridge Herald [email protected] While southern Alberta crews continue the battle against overland flooding, officials have issued warnings about additional dangers. Landowners who depend on cisterns and wells which have been flooded are being warned not to use the water – but to consider it contaminated. Owners are, meanwhile, being asked […]

High snowpack across Alberta has river forecasters on alert this spring The immediate concern is in low-lying areas on the prairies

Colette Derworiz CBC News Posted: Apr 08, 2018 7:40 PM Provincial officials are keeping a close eye on creeks and streams across Alberta as temperatures start to rise. During last week’s monthly snow survey by Alberta Environment and Parks, all of the river basins across the province still had higher than average snowpacks. “In the […]

Alberta power system in a state of change

March 23, 2018 Dave Mabell Lethbridge Herald [email protected] Albertans will see plenty of change in their electrical power system over the next decade. As coal-fired generating plants are retired, natural gas thermal facilities will take their place. Meanwhile wind, solar and other renewable resources will be developed to provide up to 30 per cent of […]

Rural landowners ‘free prey’ – Rural residents worried about crime, property rights

Lethbridge Herald 13 Mar 2018 Lauren Krugel THE CANADIAN PRESS David Reid says he’s become more diligent about locking up on the land his family has farmed in Alberta for more than a century and is more watchful of strange vehicles along rural side roads. “Neighbours have been broken into in the middle of the […]

Oil firm ceasing operations, leaving thousands of Alberta wells untended

By Staff The Canadian Press Sat, Oct 31: They are littered across the country and practically cover Alberta- oil and gas wells that have done their time and no longer in use. Once an oil well is no longer in use, the company is responsible for shutting it down and bringing the land back to […]

Ag Expo and North American Seed Fair take over Exhibition Park

By Martin, Tijana on February 27, 2018. Joel Maljaars helps set up a robotic milking system from GEA Farm Technologies at the Lethbridge Dairy Mart Ltd. booth at Exhibition Park on Monday in advance of the annual South Country Co-op Ag Expo and North American Seed Fair. Herald photo by Tijana Martin @TMartinHerald Tijana Martin […]

Grain industry raising concerns over growing backlog of grain shipments

By The Canadian Press on February 26, 2018. CALGARY – Grain shippers and producers are raising concerns about a growing backlog of rail shipments that they say is leading to lost sales and unreliable exports. The Ag Transport Coalition that represents several grain associations says that car order fulfilments from Canada’s two major railways was […]

New enviro assessment bill revealed – New system will provide clarity about how process works for energy projects

Lethbridge Herald 9 Feb 2018 Mia Rabson THE CANADIAN PRESS — OTTAWA Catharine McKenna Major new energy projects will have to be assessed and either approved or denied within two years under a massive new national assessment bill being introduced in the House of Commons. Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, who introduced the 341-page Impact Assessment […]

Farmers don’t want to be left holding the bag when wells abandoned

Daryl Bennett is director of the Action Surface Rights Association and a farmer with experience representing land owners in Alberta for the past 10 years. His group will appear before the Supreme Court of Canada to oppose the legal ruling in the Redwater case, which frees creditors from covering the cost of old wells when […]

Fight over abandoned oil wells heads to the Supreme Court

TV Interview

QR 77 interview with Danielle Re: Abandoned Wells

Click on link below and choose “Abandoned Wells” Abandoned Wells

Court of Appeal decision for Redwater

Click on link below to go to PDF document of the “Redwater Court of Appeal” Redwater Court of Appeal

Farmers join top court fight against wells

Lethbridge Herald 19 Jan 2018 A group with the support of thousands of farmers will appear before the Supreme Court of Canada to oppose a legal ruling that allows energy companies to walk away from unprofitable wells on agricultural land. The court announced Thursday that it will hear from the Action Surface Rights Association in […]

Record heat hits southern Alberta

By Jodi Hughes Weather Anchor Global News Many Albertans have been enjoying an unusually warm start to December, with some locations 15 degrees above average. Lethbridge and Grande Prairie both set new record highs Friday, with temperatures above 14C, while Calgary, Sundre and Claresholm were all notably close to new records. On Saturday, Calgary officially […]

Alberta man with vision loss auctions off rare collection of farm equipment he’s repaired over 50 years

By Katelyn Wilson WATCH: A rare auction over the weekend in Enchant saw a lifetime collection of vintage farm equipment, over 400 items sold off. Interesting the collector lost his sight 40 years ago but still does all of the restoration work himself. Katelyn Wilson reports. A rare auction over the weekend in Enchant, Alta., […]

Alberta urged to compensate farmers to make up costs of health and safety rules

By Dean Bennett The Canadian Press An Alberta government panel is recommending the province subsidize farmers and ranchers to offset costs of new occupational health and safety rules. The panel said the long list of requirements in the occupational health and safety code, “when added up, may be significant for some and may be perceived […]

Threat of NAFTA collapse, weak inflation put Bank of Canada on hold

FRED CHARTRAND THE CANADIAN PRESS October 25, 2017 Canada’s central bank is hitting the pause button on hiking interest rates in the face of surprisingly weak inflation and the threat of NAFTA’s demise. The Bank of Canada kept its key overnight rate unchanged at 1 per cent Wednesday and appeared to push further down the […]

What if NAFTA ended? These would be Canada’s hardest-hit provinces, industries

By Jesse Ferreras National Online Journalist Global News After four rounds of talks, negotiations around the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) aren’t exactly going smoothly, with proposals that could have serious implications for certain Canadian provinces. On Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland criticized a series of proposals that the United States has advanced […]

As U.S. shocks with NAFTA demands, Canada and Mexico ask: What does Trump want?

News 07:07 PM by Alexander Panetta The Canadian Press Hamilton Spectator ARLINGTON, United States — The chief U.S. negotiator shrugged his shoulders when asked about signs of trouble in the NAFTA talks on Sunday. John Melle pulled open a door, entered a work room, and offered a one-word reply about how it’s going. “Fabulous,” he […]

U.S. slow to present specifics on key NAFTA demands Canada still optimistic deal can be renegotiated by the end of the year

By Katie Simpson CBC News Posted: Sep 22, 2017 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Sep 22, 2017 4:27 PM ET U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to terminate NAFTA unless his country gets what it wants. A source says Canadian officials are anticipating a change in tone from U.S. negotiators, given these negative statements. The […]

U.S. wants 5-year ‘sunset clause’ in NAFTA: Ross NAFTA

NAFTA, Trump and Canada: A guide to the trade file and what it could mean for you In this April 21, 2008 file photo, national flags representing the United States, Canada, and Mexico fly in the breeze in New Orleans where leaders of the North American Free Trade Agreement met. (A P Photo/Judi Bottoni, File) […]


9 Sep 2017 Lethbridge Herald THE CANADIAN PRESS – CALGARY Alberta’s energy minister is calling a decision by Canada’s national energy regulator to consider indirect greenhouse gas emissions in evaluating a multi-billion-dollar pipeline an “historic overreach” that could cast a chill over the future of energy development. Margaret McCuaig-Boyd said it’s inappropriate for the National […]

Farmers turning to specialized forecasting – Service plants weather stations throughout property

Lethbridge Herald 12 Aug 2017 Ian Bickis THE CANADIAN PRESS — CALGARY In an industry that lives and dies by the weather, farmers like Dwight Foster are looking for all the help they can get to know what’s coming. “We use every tool in the toolbox we can get our hands on to try and […]


Lethbridge Herald 12 Aug 2017 Faron Ellis and George Rigaux Much was said about vote splitting during the run-up to Wildrose and PC members’ endorsement of the United Conservative Party. Since then, more speculation about how many former PC and Wildrose voters the UCP will attract has ensued. Unfortunately, the simple math most often used […]

Political entrepreneurship and UCP

GUEST COLUMN Lethbridge Herald 5 Aug 2017 Faron Ellis and George Rigaux First of four parts Following the decisive votes by both Wildrose and Progressive Conservative members in support of merging their parties into the new United Conservative Party (UCP), many headlines have posed the quite reasonable question: what comes next? Beginning today, and over […]

Party merger sparks unrest Splinter groups forming in province

Lethbridge Herald 5 Aug 2017 Bill Graveland THE CANADIAN PRESS — CALGARY The merger of Alberta’s two conservative parties is prompting some disaffected members to form splinter parties of their own despite warnings from experts that the move is unlikely to affect the next provincial election. Members of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta and […]

Can Alberta get land use right?

By Lethbridge Herald Opinion on July 29, 2017. Lorne Fitch and Kevin Van Tighem The best of planning anticipates and prepares for future excellence. The worst simply perpetuates past failures. Recreation planning currently underway for the spectacular public lands of Alberta’s Oldman drainage and Porcupine Hills appears aimed at the muddy middle. We can do […]


Lethbridge Herald 25 Jul 2017 Dave Mabell With his “unite the right” campaign successful, Jason Kenney is now expected to run for the leadership of the new United Conservative Party. But his victory is not inevitable, says political scientist Faron Ellis. Wildrose leader Brian Jean will be running against Kenney. And Ellis, political science instructor […]


Lethbridge Herald 24 Jul 2017 Dean Bennett The former president of Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives says some members feel adrift after a majority voted to embrace a new party, effectively consigning one of Canada’s great political brands to the ash heap of history. Katherine O’Neill, in an interview Sunday, said she’s been hearing from many PC […]

Albertans need to be kept informed about electricity system

Lethbridge Herald 23 Jul 2017 It is good to see that The Herald has undertaken a review of Alberta’s electricity supply system (“Power demand not taxing system,” by Dave Mabell, on July 14.) Mr. Mabell provides some useful generating capacity statistics from the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) and concludes our existing electrical system is […]

Alta. right united again – PCs and Wil­drose ap­prove merger of two par­ties

  Lethbridge Herald 23 Jul 2017 Dean Bennett Alberta’s political landscape profoundly shifted Saturday as its two main conservative parties — enemies for a decade — overwhelmingly agreed to end their feud and work as one to defeat Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP. In separate votes, members of the Wildrose party and the Progressive Conservatives voted […]

Trump to reveal his hopes for NAFTA renegotiation

CTV News Channel: Protecting U.S. dairy priority Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press Published Monday, July 17, 2017 4:11AM EDT WASHINGTON – After campaigning and complaining about NAFTA for two years, Donald Trump is about to start doing some explaining: the U.S. president is poised to release a list as early as today revealing how he […]


Lethbridge Herald 17 Jul 2017 Jessica Smith Cross THE CANADIAN PRESS Canadian Press photoBryan Maynard, a co-owner of Farmboys Inc., along with his brother Kyle, is seen in one of their potato fields in Richmond, Prince Edward Island. Maynard is calling on families to talk about the future of their farms. A growing number of […]

Aging farmers with no succession plans put future of Canadian family farms at risk 92 per cent of Canadian farms have no transition plan ready, Stats Can says

By Jessica Smith Cross, The Canadian Press Posted: Jul 16, 2017 12:49 PM ET Last Updated: Jul 16, 2017 12:54 PM ET Statistics Canada reports that 92 per cent of Canadian farms have no written transition plan ready for when the current operator retires. Statistics Canada reports that 92 per cent of Canadian farms have […]


6 Jul 2017 Lethbridge Herald THE CANADIAN PRESS — CALGARY ’’ The entire provincial scheme for protecting Albertans from the abandonment costs in relation to non-productive wells is seriously compromised. – Nigel Bankes – University of Calgary Alberta’s energy regulator has asked the Supreme Court of Canada to review a ruling that could allow energy […]

Watchdog must be impartial

14 Jun 2017 Lethbridge Herald OUR EDITORIAL: WHAT WE THINK One of the most important qualifications in adjudicating matters of any kind is impartiality. Whether it involves a judge in a court case, a referee officiating a game, an arbitrator handling a labour mediation or a volunteer judging jams at a local fair, it’s vital […]


14 Jun 2017 Lethbridge Herald Ben Eisen and Steve Lafleur THE FRASER INSTITUTE – VANCOUVER Over the past decade, Ontario emerged as the poster child for poor fiscal management in Canada, due largely to the province’s deep run of deficits. However, thanks to a decade of rapid spending growth and painful decline in oil prices, […]

Quebec mayors make case for ‘win-win agreement’ in softwood lumber dispute

Union of Quebec Municipalities holds meetings in Washington, D.C. CBC News Posted: May 16, 2017 10:37 AM ETLast Updated: May 16, 2017 11:52 AM ET A truck carrying wood goes through the customs checkpointin Champlain, N.Y. Canadian lumber imports into the United States face new duties ranging from three to 24 per cent. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian […]

Facing Trump’s tariffs, Quebec launches campaign to promote softwood lumber

Presse Canadienne Published on: May 15, 2017 | Last Updated: May 15, 2017 4:29 PM EDT Still from a promotional video for the campaign “Une forêt de possibilités” funded by the Quebec government and Quebec Forest Industry Council. Une forêt de possibilités / YouTube Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard doesn’t expect the federal government to loan […]

Alberta’s electricity future blowin’ in the wind

Conference on wind energy told Alberta has great potential for more wind power By Nola Keeler, CBC News Posted: May 09, 2017 1:44 PM MTLast Updated: May 09, 2017 1:44 PM MT Alberta could see up to nearly a third of its energy coming from wind generation and other renewable energy sources in the next 15 […]

Canada weighing multiple trade actions against U.S. over softwood lumber dispute

Federal government considering retaliatory duties on goods from Oregon, ban on coal exports through B.C. By Alexander Panetta The Canadian Press Posted: May 05, 2017 3:36 PM ET Last Updated: May 05, 2017 3:49 PM ET Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has written B.C premier Clark to tell her he is considering request for a ban […]

Tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber will hurt jobs, US companies warn

By Ross Marowits The Canadian Press Stacks of lumber are shown at NMV Lumber in Merritt, B.C., Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Several American companies that rely on Canadian softwood say thousands of American jobs are at risk unless the U.S. Department of Commerce exempts them from hefty duties imposed on imported softwood lumber. Stacks of […]

Why Trump is fighting Canada on softwood lumber and dairy

By Vicki Needham 05/02/17 06:00 AM EDT The Hill  © Getty Images © Getty Images Two arcane and long-standing fights are at the center of President Trump’s trade war with Canada. The U.S. has been battling with Canada over softwood lumber since the 1980s, and disputes over dairy protections have been a persistent irritant in […]

LEGER: Dairy and softwood bluster is pure Trump posturing

DAN LEGER Published May 1, 2017 – 5:00am Last Updated May 1, 2017 – 8:49am Herald Opinions U.S. President Donald Trump’s bluster regarding softwood lumber and dairy products is his latest grasping attempt to seem tough while, in actuality, his style leads to nothing but pure chaos. (Jacques Boissinot/CP)  All that is old becomes new […]

‘Everything is on the table’: Alberta communities react to U.S. softwood lumber tariffs

Stuart Thomson Published on: May 1, 2017 | Last Updated: May 1, 2017 6:00 AM MDT Edmonton Journal High Level Mayor Crystal McAteer worries the lumber industry will be paralyzed by the uncertainty caused by recent tariffs imposed by the U.S. Ed Kaiser / Edmonton Journal Alberta’s forestry communities are in an impossible spot after new […]

Corporate Canada warns of Trump’s tax-cut plan

27 Apr 2017 Lethbridge Herald Andy Blatchford THE CANADIAN PRESS — OTTAWA TRUMP TAX CUTS WOULD HURT CANADA: INDUSTRY Corporate Canada is bracing for the latest economic challenge out of Washington: a tax cutting plan for U.S. businesses that many fear would pose a considerable threat to Canadian competitiveness as well as Ottawa’s bottom line. […]

China may be new market

26 Apr 2017 Lethbridge Herald THE CANADIAN PRESS — OTTAWA Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says selling more Canadian softwood lumber to China is one answer to the latest trade dispute with the U.S. Speaking from Beijing, Champagne says Canada’s pitch is resonating in China because softwood is an environmentally friendly building material that can satisfy […]

Clark warns of knee-jerk response to softwood fight

26 Apr 2017 Lethbridge Herald THE CANADIAN PRESS — VANCOUVER British Columbia Premier Christy Clark is warning against knee-jerk reactions to duties imposed on Canadian softwood lumber by the United States. The lumber tariffs come into effect May 1 but Clark says Canada should be careful not to do anything that would jeopardize negotiations. The […]

Trump team signals desire of a new look for NAFTA

26 Apr 2017 Lethbridge Herald Alexander Panetta THE CANADIAN PRESS — WASHINGTON President Donald Trump’s surprisingly caustic complaints about trade with Canada in recent days could be setting the stage for a broader renegotiation than previously signalled of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The administration is suddenly suggesting that irritants like dairy and softwood […]


26 Apr 2017 Lethbridge Herald Paul Wiseman THE ASSOCIATED PRESS — WASHINGTON President Donald Trump has long railed about unfair trade practices of China and Mexico. Now he’s drawn a new target — Canada. The two countries are suddenly sparring openly over inexpensive Canadian timber and Canada’s barriers to U.S. dairy products — disputes that […]

Education the focus of Bill 6 so far

7 Apr 2017 Lethbridge Herald J.W. Schnarr [email protected] Early implementation of the NDP’s farm safety bill has been focused on education, says an investigator involved in the process. Mike Rappel is an Occupational Health and Safety investigations manager who has been part of organizing the farm and ranch team responsible for inspecting farm, ranch and […]

Alta. gov’t earmarks money for watersheds – Grants to total $12M

23 Mar 2017 Lethbridge Herald THE CANADIAN PRESS — EDMONTON The NDP government is working towards protecting Alberta’s watersheds with a series of multiyear grants totalling $12 million. Officials say the announcement coincides with World Water Day, a date devoted to tackling the world’s water crisis. The plan will see $3.2 million for each of […]

Budget gives $30M for Alta. orphan wells

23 Mar 2017 Lethbridge Herald THE CANADIAN PRESS — EDMONTON Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says $30 million the federal government is giving to the province for the oil and gas industry is good news. She says her government will use the money to focus on reclaiming orphan oil wells and getting oilfield workers back to […]

Phillips answers critics of Alta. energy plan

20 Mar 2017 Lethbridge Herald J.W. Schnarr [email protected] MINISTER SAYS SELECTION OF ONTARIO BUSINESS STEMMED FROM PREVIOUS GOV’T’S LACK OF PLAN The Wildrose wants Albertans to pay more for their energy, and the Progressive Conservative party wants the province to do nothing when it comes to improving energy efficiency, says Alberta’s environment minister. Speaking at […]

PC leader still faces hurdles

20 Mar 2017 Lethbridge Herald Dave Mabell LETHBRIDGE HERALD [email protected] POLL SUGGESTS JEAN IS PREFERRED CHOICE AS LEADER OF RIGHT Former federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney dominated the vote in his bid to take over the provincial Tories on Saturday. But Lethbridge political scientist Faron Ellis says what’s expected to follow — steps to merge […]

Kenney pushes unity concept

20 Mar 2017 Lethbridge Herald Dean Bennett THE CANADIAN PRESS — CALGARY NEWLY ELECTED PC LEADER TO MEET WITH BRIAN JEAN OF WILDROSE PARTY TODAY Alberta Progressive Conservative Leader Jason Kenney says the wheels are in motion on his unite-the-right plan, with the goal of a new party and an elected leader in place a […]

Jason Kenney new PC leader – Conservative wants to unite the right

19 Mar 2017 Lethbridge Herald Dean Bennett THE CANADIAN PRESS — CALGARY Jason Kenney is the new leader of Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives. Kenney, 48, captured 1,113 of 1,476 votes cast in the party’s first delegated convention since 1985. Richard Starke, a sitting PC legislature member, was second with 323 votes. Longtime party member Byron Nelson […]

Save planet by keeping coal-fired power plants

26 Feb 2017 Lethbridge Herald LETTERS Re: “Green incentive program ready by March.” My goodness, Shannon! How nice of you to help us save month. You plan to spend $648 million over the next five years. That’s over $171 million a year. Money you don’t got. How’s that for saving us money? All that borrowed […]

Alberta carbon tax a divisive issue

25 Feb 2017 Lethbridge Herald Dave Mabell POLLS SHOWS MOST CITY RESIDENTS OPPOSED TO PROVINCIAL LEVY If you vote NDP, you likely support Alberta’s new carbon levy. If not, you’re probably among more than 64 per cent of Lethbridge citizens who say they’re opposed to the carbon tax and rebate program launched by the government […]




Posted on May 5, 2022By Cole ParkinsonWestwind Weekly News The Action Surface Rights board has been busy with a variety of different work over the past several months. With no Annual General Meeting due to COVID last year, this year the group was able to host one in March and members were updated on what […]

Lethbridge Herald 3 Nov 2021 Collin Gallant SOUTHERN ALBERTA NEWSPAPERS [email protected] Opposition is growing to a proposed power line route in Cypress County that would connect a new wind power project to substations near Medicine Hat. The Winnifred Wind project would be built north of the County of Forty Mile hamlet, located about 14 kilometres […]

U OF C STUDYCanadian PressMay 20, 2021 | 6:03 AM CALGARY — A report from the University of Calgary says the costs of Alberta’s growing stock of abandoned and inactive oil and gas wells are falling unfairly on landowners and taxpayers. Braeden Larson of the university’s School of Public Policy says the scope of the […]

Through the eyes of ex-engineer, now filmmaker Gillian McKercher, Orphaned explores the huge task of cleaning up thousands of idle oil and gas wells in the prairies before it's too late (Calgary, AB).