Ganley pledges inquiry into orphan wells, overhaul of AER and would make energy companies pay back municipal taxes

ANDP leadership hopeful Kathleen Ganley is promising, if elected premier, to hold an inquiry into the total orphaned and inactive well clean-up liability, hold a comprehensive review and overhaul of the Alberta Energy Regulator and force oil and gas companies to pay their back property taxes. 

In the press release for this campaign pledge Ganley says that the regulator "has lost the public's trust," and that she believes in the polluter-pay principle and would enforce it. 

Pumpjack image via WherezJeff and Creative Commons

Ganley mentioned that her concerns with the AER stem not just from the environmental liabilities that they've let stack up - the AER's own estimates say that cleaning up the mess left behind from oil and gas development would cost anywhere from $60 to $260 billion dollars - but also from from the recent water contamination issues from Imperial Oil's Kearl oilsands project and the AER's decision to re-open the Grassy Mountain coal mine application. 

“The Alberta Energy Regulator has failed in its duty to act in the public interest and protect our environment and safeguard the health and well-being of Albertans,” Ganley said. “Albertans have been clear that they don’t support mining our mountains for coal and they expect the regulator to protect the air, land, and water — that is the entire point of a regulator.” 

Ganley also takes time in her release to blast the UCP over R-Star, the controversial program that seeks to throw money at oil and gas companies to do something they're already legally obligated to do -- clean up their sites.

“Danielle Smith is proceeding with a plan to use $20 billion of Albertans’ money to clean up a mess that most of them had no hand in making,” Ganley said. “I would cancel her ridiculous RStar program and hand the bill back to those responsible. This was a deal — companies get access to resources, but they have responsibility to clean up after themselves. I will not allow the Alberta public to get stuck with this liability.”

The UCP has a $100 million pilot project called called the Liability Management Incentive Pilot, which is the successor to the RStar program that Ganley is referencing.

Ganley closed out the campaign promise with a promise to take legislative action to make sure energy companies pay back outstanding property taxes. The Rural Municipalities of Alberta organization estimates that oil and gas companies owe roughly $300 million in unpaid taxes. 

While the last promise is a little vague it's good to see someone talking about it. Letting oil and gas companies get away with not paying hundreds of million in municipal taxes is absurd.