The most frequently asked questions about the proposed Polluter Pay Federation and some types of property rights are answered below
How can I learn more or become involved in formation of the Federation?
Follow our News Page and Blog Page of this website. Follow Polluter Pay Federation on FaceBook. Draft formation documents and any revisions thereof, are or will be posted on this website from time to time (see Title Page Foundation Documents and Membership and Funding Model Page of this website for the legal basis behind the proposed funding model). Watch our Launch Video on the Media and Links Page). Send in your suggestions, contact a Temporary Steering Committee Member, or join the Final Steering Committee. In the meantime please donate $20 or more through our GoFundMe Campaign or by way of this website (Donations Page) to help cover incorporation costs.
What are Surface and Mineral Rights?
Surface rights are a real property concept unique to Western Canada. Each province manages surface rights issues for energy purposes differently by way of surface rights laws. In Alberta, the Surface Rights Act is the governing law that is the enabling or home statute of the Alberta Surface Rights Board. Two land titles are issued for most land in Alberta, one for the rights to use the surface and other for “reserved” mineral rights, including petroleum and natural gas. Prior to the time of laws like the Surface Rights Act, the mineral owner or lessee had a right at common law to use the surface without compensating the surface owner and without his or her consent. Such is no longer the case at law.
As former surface rights lawyer Mr. Brian O’Ferrall (now an Alberta Justice of Appeal) stated in a 1987 paper delivered to a law society, surface rights issues will not make sense unless one understands the functions of licensing authorities – now the Alberta Energy Regulator (upstream oil and gas including some pipelines) and the Alberta Utilities Commission (power transmission lines and downstream pipelines) as to Alberta energy activities and the Canadian Energy Regulator (formerly the National Energy Board) as to federally approved projects.
Unless the energy activity is licence-exempt, the “operator” requires both (A) a statutory approval (such as a licence) from an authority with jurisdiction, and (B) a surface “right of entry” acquired by agreement with the surface owner or an order of the Surface Rights Board or the Canadian Energy Regulator (called a “right of entry order”) to legally use the surface of land the statutory approval holder does not own (otherwise the operator is deemed to be trespassing). The operator’s rights to enter are effectively expropriated and the taking of rights from the owner (by order) or notional acquisition of such rights (by agreement) are compensable pursuant to expropriation principles. The surface rights owner is entitled to be compensated for all losses, but no more.
Compensation for Loss and Injury: Contrary to what common terminology implies, compensation paid for surface rights is not “rent”. The landowner / operator relationship is not remotely one between landlord and tenant. Operators obtain approvals and land rights “in the public interest”, which has implications for taxpayers.
Why should I become a member?
All citizens of Canada benefit from membership unless one is an oil and gas executive, employed by an energy administrative body or regulator, or employed by a company that is or is about to become a dinosaur. The Polluter Pay Federation will protect the rights of taxpayers, titled landowners (surface and minerals in Alberta) and create new business and employment opportunities by ensuring that only the polluter pays (rather than the taxpayer) for the costs of their actions.
Why is the taxpayer in danger?
There are many reasons, but the main reason is the polluter pay principle has been almost entirely ignored over some 100 years of energy development, primarily of oil and gas, in Alberta. Polluters are dumping their liabilities onto landowners, who are entitled to recover their losses from the taxpayer. It would appear that few taxpayers (federally or provincially) are aware of this.
How do we ensure that only polluters and potential polluters pay?
Alberta has complex-but-adequate laws that require the polluter to pay. There are a variety of ways to ensure that only polluters pay. Educating the public, and in particular surface rights (land) owners, about proper observance of their rights and applicable law is the key to a return to the rule of law, proper law enforcement, public safety, and protecting the taxpayer from picking up the tab for the irresponsible actions of industry members.
How does ensuring that only polluters and potential polluters pay create wealth and jobs?
There are up to 100,000 inactive wells, and countless inactive facilities, on the landscape, which will never be used again. Broke operators are not about to voluntarily do the necessary work. Educated landowners can force this work, relying on Alberta law and Supreme Court of Canada rulings, and create new business opportunities and jobs in the process. Only some of the economic opportunities lie in construction, service rigs and cementing, environmental work, law firm opportunities, appraisals, safety and law enforcement firm opportunities, and many more. Many communities will benefit from funded surface rights and other group offices. Over a $1/4 Trillion worth of work must be done. Full employment is possible.