Calling all Trident Landowners – Including on Bill 12 Issues

Members of the Polluter Pay Steering Committee have identified unique solutions for those who hosted operations of Trident companies on their lands. This blog post is made in large part to illustrate the nature of the benefits of being a Polluter Pay Federation Member (effectively free for all surface rights owners who host energy activities on their lands).

Last year Trident “handed over the keys” to some 4,000 wells and other operations – forfeiting their operations. Below are links to background articles:

  • Kenney already facing Alberta’s reckoning over mismanaged oilfield cleanup, Opinion By┬áRegan Boychuk, May 2nd 2019 (the day after Trident failed)
  • A recent Article, entitled Follow the Money – if you can provides background and related information.
  • The Progress Report, posted by Jeremy Appel: How to get away with dumping your orphan wells on the public

Section 32 of the Mines and Minerals Act

Our wise legislators of the past envisioned such a circumstance and devised a remedy at law: Section 32 of the Mines and Minerals Act. Like so many other aspects of Alberta statutory scheme as a whole, this remedy is being ignored.

Subsections 32(5) and 32(7) of the Mines and Minerals Act are crystal clear:

  • Pursuant to subsection (5), in the event the petroleum substances associated with a Trident wellbore are owned by Her Majesty in Right of the Province of Alberta, the province is the assignee of any surface lease agreement or right of entry order.
  • It follows that the Provincial Crown must take over payments that Trident was obliged to make to the surface owner (and all other responsibilities of Trident)

Surface Rights Board Backlog and Overload

No doubt Trident landowners are frustrated with being told to pursue another all but unavailable remedy at law. The delays associated with making an application to the Surface Rights Board pursuant to the collection provisions of Section 36 of the Surface Rights Act are well known. Many might reasonably find that a delay of up to five years or longer, in requesting a remedy designed for quick collection of unpaid amounts that an operator owes to a landowner, are unacceptable.

The Mines and Minerals Act solution is arguably, if not absolutely, a preferable solution to waiting in the growing queue at the Surface Rights Board where Section 36 applications are all but ignored.

Trident was a Bill 12 Factor

A well-attended meeting of concerned folks was held at the Reed Ranch country school shortly after Trident handed over its keys so to speak. People wanted answers but for the most part the government panel assembled to provide answers didn’t exactly do so – at least not accurately.

A representative of the Alberta Energy Regulator, Lars De Paw of the Orphan Well Association, Michelle Del Cole of the Farmers’ Advocate Office, and the head of the Surface Rights Board answered selected questions written on sticky notes collected by volunteer Red Ranch student runners.

Some of the tougher questions were left on the table.

Some of the members of the Polluter Pay Federation Steering Committee, who had seen previous Orphan Well Association (OWA) presentations, were present for a number of subsequent presentations at various Alberta venues after Reed Ranch.

It became obvious that, at worst, the OWA was trespassing when it engaged in land reclamation, and at best, whether or not the OWA had a right of entry to engage in land remediation or reclamation activities was in doubt.

The matter is no longer in doubt. Bill 12, expediently passed pursuant to COVID-19 emergency sessions of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, grants such rights of entry. Whether Bill 12 is sound in such regards remains to be seen.

Should Trident Landowners Join Forces?

The Polluter Pay Federation advocates that landowners who have similar or identical issues that continue to go unresolved should band together to take actions contemplated by law. The mandate of the Federation is to facilitate cooperative efforts, including in future to provide funding to mount administrative and court intervention measures.

We ask that interested Trident landowners contact a member of the Temporary Steering Committee.

How Many Trident Assets did Ember Resources Purchase, and Will Ember Pay?

Lars De Paw of the OWA, as well as other persons who are informed property rights advocates, have informed Committee members that may former Trident wells were purchased by Ember Resources. The Farmers’ Advocated office posted a notice that Ember is seeking to unilaterally reduce annual compensation payments (which normally cannot be done). This information was confirmed by other sources.

There are a number of reasons for former Trident landowners to share information and ideas including legal options about solutions.

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