Wellsite ordered reclaimed: in for a penny, now about that pound


Wellsite ordered reclaimed: in for a penny, now about that pound

Wellsite ordered reclaimed: in for a penny, now about that pound


While the recently issued Environmental Protection Order that mandates the reclamation of an abandoned wellsite is a good step for the site (and the landowner)  it also stands as an illustration of how things need to change.  As reported in the Calgary Herald the well at issue has been the subject of concern since 2006 (and possibly prior).

It would be interesting to know the amount of time and money spent by the department to get compliance in this instance (and they aren’t there yet).   Then consider a similar regulatory approach in the context of 16,975 wells that were abandoned between 1963 and 2002 (see AESRD) and the additional 35,856 wells that have been abandoned since 2002 (for a total of 52,831 abandoned and unreclaimed wellsites at the end of 2012).

Granted, one must assume only a small portion of these abandoned wells would require the same amount of regulatory oversight.   Nevertheless one is confronted by the enormity of the task in tackling this legacy of abandoned wellsites and the thought that there must be a better way.

In 2013 the ELC released Reclaiming Tomorrow Today, a report that proposes regulatory amendments that set timelines on reclamation and abandonment.  The timelines would bring environmental, social, and economic benefits to Albertans and assist in managing the cumulative effects of our development.

The approach is straightforward and would provide a high level of regulatory certainty.  Granted the transition from our current approach to one with regulatory timelines on reclamation will bring some economic pain to those holding long abandoned sites.  I anticipate that regulatory timelines  would also reveal the true nature of liabilities on the landscape and the ability of the operators who own these sites to reclaim them as required.

We can continue to spend our enforcement and compliance pennies on these sites one at a time but I think it is time to go “in with a pound” and change our regulatory approach to manage this backlog of unreclaimed wellsites.




The Environmental Law Centre (ELC) has been seeking strong and effective environmental laws since it was founded in 1982. The ELC is dedicated to providing credible, comprehensive and objective legal information regarding natural resources, energy and environmental law, policy and regulation in Alberta. The ELC’s mission is to educate and champion for strong laws and rights so all Albertans can enjoy clean water, clean air and a healthy environment. Our vision is a society where laws secure an environment that sustains current and future generations.

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  • alrightcamping
    Posted at 05:20h, 22 April Reply

    i agree, monitoring and taking care of so many wells would require enormous effort!

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