Alberta landowners and legal experts criticize well cleanup bill

Landowners and legal experts are criticizing Alberta’s hastily passed new legislation intended to help clean up the province’s huge stockpile of abandoned energy facilities.

The bill, which passed into law in three days last week, gives a group charged with cleaning up those sites new powers to take over and operate abandoned wells.

The Orphan Well Association will also be able order cleanup and reclamation of land around wells and pipelines.

But critics say it still doesn’t give energy companies a timeline to clean up their mess or ensure they have enough money to do the job — reasons why Alberta has thousands of unreclaimed sites to begin with.

As well, landowners with the Alberta Liabilities Disclosure Project say the Orphan Well Association will now be able to run wells without paying rent.

And they say workers now have more power to come on their property without getting permission.

Nigel Bankes, a law professor at the University of Calgary, says the bill was rammed through and passed in a high-handed manner.

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