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

Lethbridge Herald
13 Mar 2018
Lauren Krugel

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 day and early in the morning when they’re still in their houses asleep and had items stolen right from the middle of their farmyards,” Reid said from Cremona, northwest of Calgary.

“Certainly you hear more about these criminals being armed. And if they’re not armed, then on drugs and certainly unpredictable.”

In Okotoks, about an 80-minute drive to the southeast, RCMP last month arrested a man on aggravated assault and firearms charges after he caught two people rummaging through his vehicles. One of the suspects, who was later found with a wounded arm, faces numerous charges that include trespassing, mischief and theft.

That case — along with the acquittal of Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley in the shooting death of an Indigenous man — has renewed a simmering debate about what rights rural residents have to use force against a perceived intruder.

Reid doesn’t believe farmers defending their property should face tougher repercussions than those attempting to steal from them. But he said he’s not inclined to use firearms himself. “I guess I’m not the vigilante type.” Kevin Avram with the Grassroots Alberta Landowners Association said property owners shouldn’t be penalized for taking matters into their own hands.

“If the guy doesn’t want to get shot in the arm, just stay away from breaking into people’s property,” Avram said.

“Many landowners are getting the very distinct impression that the criminal element of the province is being sent a signal — and the signal is that landowners are free prey.”

Alberta RCMP Supt. John Bennett said property crime in rural areas has increased 23 per cent over the last five years. Offences include break and enters, vehicle theft, theft under $5,000 and possession of stolen goods. Violent crimes, however, are down, he said. “We understand completely that people feel vulnerable and frustrated,” said Bennett, who is in charge of a squad that focuses on criminals who appear to be behind a disproportionate number of calls.

He’s encouraging people not to take on intruders themselves, but to leave it to police.

“You never know how someone may react when confronted. We don’t want to see anyone getting hurt.”

Bev Salomons with the Alberta Citizens on Patrol Association said rural residents are clamouring to take action against crime in their communities — but that shouldn’t involve resorting to force.

“It’s not worth going to jail over,” she said in an interview from her home in Sherwood Park, where she has installed a security system and gate.

Citizens on Patrol volunteers work in pairs to look out for anything suspicious.

“Eyes and ears only. We do not confront anyone. We do not get out of our vehicles,” said Salomons.

Three years ago, there were 50 to 55 Alberta communities with patrol groups, she said. That grew to 70 in 2017 and another 16 are being added.

At a recent town-hall meeting in Biggar, Sask., residents of the rural community west of Saskatoon complained of repeated thefts and break-ins, lenient punishments for culprits and long police response times. Many wanted to know what right they have to use force against an intruder.

Biggar is near Stanley’s farm where Colten Boushie, 22, was shot and killed. Boushie was in an SUV that had driven onto the property. Stanley testified he thought he was being robbed and the fatal shot went off accidentally.

RCMP Sgt. Colin Sawrenko referred residents to the Criminal Code section on defence of person and property. He urged people to trust officers trained to handle volatile situations.

“There’s a million and one what-if scenarios. The key word is reasonableness — that’s what you have to remember,” he told residents. “If it’s somebody stealing gas, what is reasonable? I don’t have that answer for you.”

Rob Danychuk, a farmer and local councillor, said he wasn’t surprised so many property rights questions came up after the Stanley case.

“Colten Boushie’s death was terrible and it’s not something that should have ever happened, but it’s a result that was going to happen,” he said.

“You can’t have people coming into somebody’s yard every day and there not eventually being an accident.”

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 way it was before. But that doesn’t always happen. Some companies would rather leave a well inactive than pay for the cleanup. Vassy Kapelos reports.

A massive number of oil and gas wells, facilities and pipeline segments stand to be added to the already bulging files of the Alberta Orphan Well Association in the wake of the likely failure of Sequoia Resources Corp.

All of the Calgary-based company’s operating licences were ordered suspended after the privately held oil and gas company warned the Alberta Energy Regulator late last month it was ceasing operations “imminently” and, as a result of “defaults in municipal tax payments,” would not be able to afford to reclaim all of its properties.

The AER said Sequoia owns licences for 2,300 wells, almost 200 facilities and nearly 700 pipeline segments.

That list doesn’t include 700 to 800 Sequoia wells where production has been stopped and the wellbore has been cleaned up but the surface hasn’t been restored, said Lars De Pauw, executive director of the Orphan Well Association.

That means the list may rise to almost 4,000 properties.

“We’re going to get a fairly sizable chunk of those sites when this is all done but none of them have been designated an orphan (yet). We’re anticipating around 75 per cent of those sites are going to come to us,” he said on Thursday.

Last spring, the province announced it would lend $235 million to the association to speed up remediation of about 700 orphan wells over the next three years.

Through an annual industry levy, petroleum producers are to pay the principal back over 10 years, while $30 million provided to the province by the federal government will be used to pay interest.

The association listed nearly 2,900 orphan wells awaiting abandonment or reclamation as of as of Feb. 28, along with 2,350 pipeline segments set for abandonment.

“With the funding we had received, the surge loan that came from the government that’s being repaid by industry, we were in a good place to deal with our current inventory over the next three years,” De Pauw said.

“But this is … basically going to negate that.”

Sequoia did not respond to an emailed interview request and a phone call to its Calgary office wasn’t answered.

PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc. said on its website it has been named trustee for Sequoia after the company filed a notice of intention in court last week to make a proposal under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.

In the AER order, addressed to Sequoia director Wentao Yang and director and president Hao Wang, the regulator warns that Sequoia is responsible for its licensed properties even if it is insolvent.

“So basically, it means the company still has to address their (oil and gas well) end-of-life obligations, post security or transfer the site to appropriate parties,” AER spokesman Ryan Bartlett said.

“Currently all the licences are suspended, the company has to ensure the sites are in a safe state, shutting them down or closing them, and they have 30 days to come into compliance with the order.”

The AER also warned Sequoia’s partners could be invited to bid to take over licences in which they hold an interest.


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

Lethbridge Herald

[email protected]

The annual South Country Co-op Ag Expo and North American Seed Fair, one of Exhibition Park’s largest events, kicks off on Wednesday.

The seed fair was established in 1897 and has grown and transformed into a three-day expo that sees an average of more than 20,000 visitors annually.

There are over 350 exhibitors registered this year, 40 of which are making their Ag Expo debut, and more than 150,000 square feet of outdoor space will be filled with machinery displays.

Fortis Alberta will display and judge products from southern Alberta.

“We are the only show, I believe, in North America that actually does judging for the seeds and the grains,” said Doug Kryzanowski, manager corporate relations and marketing for Exhibition Park.

And judges have their hands full.

“We’ve got probably over 200 samples,” he said. “I think it’s important to recognize the importance of seeds and where our food does come from.”

The event also helps showcase the “economic rotation of what a farm and ranch community does,” Kryzanowski added. “You plant it, you harvest it, you buy equipment, you feed people around the world and still at the same time, we’re pretty fortunate around our area to have great soil, good weather and people make a great living off being a farmer.”

The event runs daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday.

Admission is $7 per person, with children under 10 free. Parking on Exhibition grounds is an additional $5 per vehicle.

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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 38 per cent during the week of Feb. 12.

The coalition says Canadian National Railway Co. delivered 17 per cent of the rail cars that grain shippers ordered, while Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. delivered 66 per cent.

Wade Sobkowich, executive director of the Western Grain Elevator Association, says shippers are starting to pay penalties because delayed rail shipments mean they don’t have the grains ready to load at ports.

Grain producers say passage of Bill C-49 would be an important step in solving the problem by creating penalties for delayed railway shipments.

CN and CP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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

Lethbridge Herald
9 Feb 2018
Mia Rabson
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 Act Thursday morning, said it will provide clarity and certainty about how the process works, what companies need to do, and why and how decisions are made.

“Canada just upped its game today,” McKenna said.

She said the new system will help improve certainty to attract investments and prevent the polarization of sides and legal battles such as those currently affecting the Trans Mountain pipeline project. That project, to triple the capacity of an existing line between Alberta and British Columbia, was approved under interim principles put in place by the Liberals in early 2016, but is still mired in controversy.

McKenna said the new system sets legislated time lines for making a decision, lifts the restrictions on who can participate in an assessment process to allow more people to weigh in and requires the reasons behind a decision to be made public, including access to the science used in each case. She believes all those things will help return confidence to a system she says is broken.

Under the new act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency will be renamed the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada and reviews will look at far more than just the impact on environment. Health, social, and economic effects will also be considered, as will the effect on Indigenous rights. A gender-based analysis will also take place on every project.

Decisions will be made based on the pros and cons of a project, including its contribution to sustainability, the extent of any adverse effects and how they will be mitigated, the impacts on Indigenous lands and rights and how it will affect Canada’s ability to meet its environmental and climate change commitments.

The assessment agency is to become a one-stop shop for all assessments, including trying to coordinate with provincial governments so any project proponent only has to go through one review before a decision. The biggest or most involved projects will be assessed by a review panel appointed by the minister, while smaller projects will be looked at by the assessment agency.

Review panels will have 600 days, rather than 720, to complete their work and cabinet will make the decision whether a project goes ahead, within 90 days. The agency assessments will take a maximum of 300 days — down from 365 — and decisions made by the minister of environment in no more than 30 days.

Before a proponent even submits an application for review, they will be required to undergo an early planning phase, of a maximum of six months, to try and work with various stakeholders, including Indigenous communities, ahead of time to see what issues and concerns might arise.

McKenna said “smart proponents already do this.”

“If you don’t do the work on the front end you’re just not going to get to a conclusion quickly and you may end up in court or having protests,” she said.

The National Energy Board is being remade into the Canadian Energy Regulator, with some changes including requiring at least one board member be Indigenous and that expert panels used by the regulator include expertise in Indigenous knowledge, municipal issues, engineering and environmental issues. The CER, as it will be known, will remain based in Calgary, an official rejection of a recommendation last year to move at least some of the board’s functions to Ottawa.

The federal government will spend $1 billion over the next five years to implement the new process, including hiring more scientists to review impact statements from project proponents.

Both the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said they were pleased with the legislated timelines and the “one project, one assessment” philosophy behind the new act.

Tim McMillan, president of the petroleum producers, said the early-engagement requirement could be great, but he wants more information.

“There may be some work that needs to be done before the clock is started,” he said. “If that is more cumbersome or onerous than what we had before, it may actually be a net negative.”

The CEPA is concerned issues such as climate change will be taken into consideration, saying it is subjective and could make decisions political.

University of Ottawa law professor Stewart Elgie, who specializes in environmental and natural resource law, says the bill will make Canada the only country in the world with national assessment legislation that requires the government to consider sustainability and climate change commitments when deciding whether to approve a project or not.


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 a producer fails.

Video Link for BNN Interview


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 an appeal of the so-called Redwater decision. It allows bankrupt energy companies to abandon wells during bankruptcy proceedings without having to clean up the sites.

“It didn’t seem like anybody cared about the landowners’ position,” said Daryl Bennett, a farmer from Taber, and a member of the surface rights group, which asked the court to let it intervene.

“Industry is able to walk away from the requirement to return the land back like it was when they first took it.”

The 2016 ruling in Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench allows bankrupt energy companies to sever their connection with unprofitable and unreclaimed wells when their assets are sold off for creditors. Since that decision, more than 1,800 wells representing more than $100 million

in liabilities have been abandoned.

Alberta’s energy regulator, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Alberta government and legal scholars have all warned about the consequences of that ruling.

Bennett and his neighbours are living with the results. He said friends of his have four wells on their land, two of which have been cut loose.

“The company has come in and they’ve said they don’t have to follow any of the terms of the lease any more,” he said. “They (farmers) can’t

get a loan on their land because of existing pollution. There’s noxious weeds being spread from lease to lease by the operator. They can do whatever they want.

“The land’s not being respected. The landowners aren’t being respected.”

Farmers also lose out on promised lease payments. The Orphan Well Association, an industry-funded group that cleans up wells that have been left unreclaimed, can’t keep up with the number of companies walking away.