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NDP’s Ganley wants inquiry into well cleanup liability

Posted on March 14, 2024 by Vauxhall Advance

By Al Beeber
Southern Alberta Newspapers

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 March 5, 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 andt to ensure responsible development.

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