Make polluters pay
We want oil and gas companies to clean up their mess
In Canada, oversight of oil, gas, and mining projects within provinces is carried out by provincial regulators, in compliance with federal legislation. Unfortunately, when it comes to estimating environmental liabilities, there’s a concerning lack of transparency. Under industry influence, regulatory systems have been designed to systematically underestimate these liabilities — at least the numbers that are released publicly.
For example, a recent investigation that broke in multiple national newspapers — including The Star, Global News, and the National Observer — revealed that, while the Alberta Energy Regulator’s public estimates put oil and gas liabilities at $58 billion, their internal estimates were closer to $260 billion.
To make the problem worse, there are no enforced timelines on environmental cleanup, even though this is a norm in other oil-producing jurisdictions across North America, including Colorado and Texas.
That’s why we’re putting pressure on provincial regulators to force polluting companies to pay to clean up their inactive oil and gas wells.
By imposing and enforcing timelines for the reclamation of inactive wells, and demanding companies pay in advance for cleanup, provincial regulators can make sure the costs of environmental cleanup are not left to taxpayers.
Industry wants this issue to stay quiet. But with public pressure, we can get regulators to take action.
Across the country, there are hundreds of thousands of aging environmental liabilities left behind by the extractive industry. Oil and gas wells, coal mines, tailings ponds, and pipelines are poisoning farm fields and contaminating critical waterways in rural towns and Indigenous communities.
Policymakers have ignored this ticking time bomb for far too long. According to the Polluter Pays Principle laid out in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, companies are responsible for returning to the land and water to its original state if they do damage to the environment.
But more and more oil and gas companies are going bankrupt — and when they do, their assets aren’t enough to cover their liabilities, leaving their old wells, mines, and pipelines behind for the public to clean up.
We need to stop polluting companies from recklessly endangering the communities they work in, and leaving taxpayers on the hook for the cleanup bill.