Resource Development - Unfunded Clean-Up Liability

Alberta has a problem in its resources sector: Abandonment, remediation and reclamation obligations are not always fulfilled by industry and Alberta has not taken adequate financial security to ensure the clean-up work will be completed if industry fails to meet its obligations. Commonly referred to as Alberta’s inactive and orphan oil and gas well problem in the conventional sector, it is widely acknowledged to be the result of a long-term policy failure. Current policy is being developed under Alberta’s Liability Management Framework and is largely administered by the Alberta Energy Regulator. Clinic projects focus on bringing critical public attention to this problem, enhancing opportunities for public participation in the administration of the Liability Management Framework, and advocating for law reform.

Our Projects

The Clinic was retained as legal counsel by the Action Surface Rights Association, an Alberta-based landowner advocacy group with concerns that uneconomic wells were not being managed correctly in Alberta and that landowners needed a voice in these proceedings. As legal counsel, the Clinic advised and assisted the Association in first applying for and obtaining intervener status in early 2018 for the appeal. The Clinic then advised and assisted the Association with preparing and filing written argument, and we appeared as legal counsel for the Association at the Supreme Court of Canada in February 2018.

The Clinic was retained by a resident who lives in the Waterton field near the Hamlet of Beaver Mines and is opposed to a new sour gas pipeline which was approved by the AER in September 2021. Among other environmental and safety concerns, our client believes the licensee for the pipeline does not meet the capacity requirements for end-of-life-liability required by the new Framework and associated AER rules. 

This is an access to information project for the Clinic. Over the past several years, Clinic staff and students have filed numerous requests for records under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Alberta). Records produced by these requests, together with other relevant materials such as OWA annual reports, have been reviewed and considered by Clinic students. This research is intended to inform democratic dialogue on how the levy is set and develop recommendations for law reform.

Bighill Creek Preservation Society is a non-profit organization with a mandate to advocate for the protection of the Bighill Creek watershed. The Society filed a statement of concern under the Water Act (Alberta) to oppose the gravel mine. The Clinic has provided the Society with assistance in filing its statement of concern and has informed the Society about its opportunities to participate in the decision-making process under applicable legislation.