Property Rights and Taxation Problems Canadians Face
Guest writers and Steering Committee Members will publish articles on this Blog. Focus will be on the solutions available at law for the numerous, acute problems associated with the Alberta energy industry Primary focus on upstream oil and gas. In short, Alberta has deviated so far from the rule of law, it needs a lot of help finding its way back.
Solutions to be Outlined:
- Landowners should stop signing agreements proposed by operators until such time as agreements are drafted that properly reflect licensing decisions and properly protect their fundamental rights NOTE: OUR DON’T SIGN CAMPAIGN IS ALMOST READY FOR KICKOFF – Temporary Steering committee members have authored a White Paper as backup – and as an example of the type of work the Federation shall do to bring about legislative and procedural change – first focused on matters concerning the Surface Rights Board. WATCH FOR IT.
- Observance and enforcement of the polluter pay principles in accordance with the multiple, applicable aspects of the statutory scheme considered harmoniously as a whole
- Education and empowerment of landowners (self help strategies)
- Reconsideration rules for the Alberta Energy Regulator (and related hearings)
- Proper transfer of well licenses to “eligible” and “entitled” parties, with benefits including reduction of Surface Rights Board backlog
- A return to the rule of law in all matters energy related in Alberta
- Truly responsible energy development, which is largely non-existent currently in Alberta
- Landowners can trigger well abandonment required by law, and related work/jobs
- Public safety law enforcement independent of the Alberta Energy Regulator
- Regulator reform
- More organizations to do the work now done exclusively by the Orphan Well Association
- Landowners doing their own cleanup work or hiring contractors, at operator expense, and related financing
- Dispute financing for landowners
- Cooperation between landowners and municipalities on tax non-payment by operators
Problems to be Addressed:
- Unemployment caused by general lack-lustre performance in the conventional oil and gas sector
- Alberta is in crisis as polluters increasingly refuse to pay landowners for use of their surface rights and municipal taxes. As the conventional oil & gas industry is in its twilight years, an alarming number of industry member companies are insolvent
- Backlogged Surface Rights Board (overloaded, understaffed, and under-funded)
- Lack of access for surface rights title holders to remedies at law available from the Alberta Energy Regulator. These remedies include participatory hearings, regulatory enforcement, and security deposits that cover the cost of the “end of life” obligations that all oil and gas activity licensees have.
- Inactive wells are not being suspended (rendered safe according to their risk level) as required by law
- Unauthorized use of land is commonplace, and increasing in relation to non-payment of surface owners
- Widespread, illegal venting of natural gas to atmosphere (without being burned), with the problem at its worst in the greater Red Deer and greater Grande Prairie areas of the province
- Diseases caused by breathing hydrocarbon (natural) gases, including neuromuscular diseases (Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, ALS) and cancer – and related,unnecessary health care costs
- Under compensation of landowners, particularly in urban areas or as to land with a highest and best use higher than for agricultural purposes
- Wells and facilities not being abandoned (decommissioned) when and as required by law (Section 3.012 of the Oil and Gas Conservation Rules).
- Land development setback laws, and spacing public safety regulations are not being observed
- “Legacy” well problems
- ISSUES IMPORTANT TO THE MEMBERSHIP: For example, water use and earthquake damage issues.
A list of priority actions was established in a January 2020 workshop in Didsbury. LINK TO DOCUMENT