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Province provides another $50 million for cleaning up dormant oil wells

Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead

A second $50 million for the province’s dormant well clean-up program is available.

“Our dormant well clean-up program has already proven itself as a critical part of B.C.’s economic recovery, supporting nearly 1,000 jobs for local workers,” said Bruce Ralston, B.C.’s Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, in a news release. “This second round of funding will continue to be a ‘win-win’ for our economy and environment. This time around, we’re targeting inactive wells that were chosen by landowners, municipalities and Indigenous communities for priority cleanup.”

The second intake into the Dormant Sites Reclamation Program will be open to applications from oil and gas field service companies that have contracts to do work on sites nominated in 2020, to ensure clean-up efforts are focused first on community needs.

In July 2020, the province announced a nomination portal to ensure affected British Columbians could take part in prioritizing the cleanup of orphan and dormant wells that were known locally and regionally. Indigenous communities, landowners and local governments selected specific dormant oil or natural gas sites through this online portal, which was open until the end of September 2020.

“The federal and provincial partnership funding program aimed at the dormant well cleanup has been so very important to our community and region,” said Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead. “The importance of supporting the local economy by creating economic opportunities in the service sector has a direct and indirect benefit to every facet of the small business sector in our community and region. The added benefit is working with landowners and local governments in identifying those dormant sites which will return this valuable agriculture land back into food production.”

This second $50 million is part of the Government of Canada’s $120-million investment in B.C. to support cleaning up oil and gas sites. The province divided this funding in three programs aimed at boosting the provincial economy and accelerating restoration of the environment:

  • the Dormant Sites Reclamation Program;
  • the Orphan Sites Supplemental Reclamation Program, and
  • the Legacy Sites Reclamation Program.

The first $50 million supported nearly 1,000 jobs and restoration work activities completed at 139 sites. Approximately $15 million was allocated to sites within the province’s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), a zone in which agriculture is recognized as the priority use. The work within the ALR includes projects planned or already underway on 325 sites for decommissioning and 122 sites for restoration work.

In addition, five dormant well sites in federally listed “species at risk” habitat have completed abandonment activities. The dormant sites were in habitat that is critical to the northern mountain population of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus), located in the Snake-Sahtahneh Range in the northeastern corner of British Columbia. It is expected the first $50 million will support reclamation work at 669 dormant well sites in caribou habitat.

Eligible B.C. oil and gas field service companies and contractors, which have registration, offices and operations in the province, will receive up to $100,000 or 50 per cent of total costs, whichever is less, per eligible work activity.

The decommissioning and restoration of oil and gas sites in B.C. is regulated by the BC Oil and Gas Commission.

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