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British Columbians have say in oil and gas wells cleanup

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Indigenous communities, local governments and landowners can now identify specific orphan and inactive well sites for priority reclamation as part of the Province’s efforts to clean up wells in B.C. and create jobs for workers in oil and gas service companies.

“We are making sure local communities’ voices are heard and they have a hand in the process,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, in a news release. “By prioritizing the reclamation of orphan and inactive wells chosen by the public, we’re making use of local knowledge as we clean up the environment and create jobs for B.C. workers.”

Specific dormant and orphan sites can be nominated by the public until Sept. 30, 2020, through an online process supported by the BC Oil and Gas Commission.

“There are thousands of well sites on our treaty lands that are waiting to be reclaimed and restored,” said Chief Justin Napoleon, Saulteau First Nation. “We welcome any initiative that finally starts to focus attention and resources on restoring those lands. A process for nominating sites is a start, but there is much more work to do on these issues. We look forward to working with the Province and others on programs that include Indigenous perspectives on restoration standards and Indigenous participation in restoration activities. We have experience, knowledge and skills to share and it is only by working together that we can make the dormant and orphan well site reclamation programs successful.”

In April 2020, the Government of Canada announced $120 million in funding for B.C. to support the restoration of oil and gas sites, as part of its COVID-19 industry support. To ensure this funding supports B.C. workers and companies, the Province developed three new programs:

* $100 million for the Dormant Sites Reclamation Program: this program will reclaim dormant oil and gas sites, which are wells that have been inactive for five consecutive years and are unlikely to return to service. 

* $15 million for the Orphan Sites Supplemental Reclamation Program: this program will reclaim orphan oil and gas sites where the operator is insolvent, no longer exists or cannot be located.

* $5 million for the Legacy Sites Reclamation Program: this program will address the legacy impacts of historical oil and gas activities that continue to have environmental impacts, such as on wildlife habitat or on the traditional use by Indigenous peoples.

Wells nominated for cleanup will receive priority consideration under the second increment of $50 million that is available through the Dormant Sites Reclamation Program and as part of the $15-million Orphan Sites Supplemental Reclamation Program.

These programs are open to oil and gas field service companies and contractors based in B.C., with registration, office and operations in B.C.

“The cleanup of dormant and orphan wells in the region is a terrific initiative by the federal and provincial governments,” said Dale Bumstead, mayor, Dawson Creek. “To take on the cleanup of the environment, as well as create economic benefits to our small businesses will be a win-win for everyone.”

Learn More:

Information on the site nomination process and how to access the nomination portal is available here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/natural-gas-oil/responsible-oil-gas-development/dormant-sites-reclamation-program/site-nomination

Information on the Dormant Sites Reclamation Program is available here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/natural-gas-oil/responsible-oil-gas-development/dormant-sites-reclamation-program

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