Abandoned oil and gas wells put unfair burden on Alberta landowners, taxpayers, study says

A report from the University of Calgary says the costs of Alberta’s growing stock of abandoned and inactive oil and gas wells are falling unfairly on landowners and taxpayers.

Braeden Larson of the university’s School of Public Policy says the scope of the problem is growing rapidly.

He says more than half of all oil and gas wells in the province no longer produce but haven’t been cleaned up.

Over the last six years, the number of inactive wells has quintupled and those wells are staying quiet for longer — more than half have been inactive for more than a decade.

Larson quotes earlier research suggesting more than 10 per cent of inactive wells leak.

Fewer landowners are getting the rent they’re owed, and taxpayer-funded settlements increased twelvefold between 2014 and 2018.

Larson says government well cleanup programs tend to favour what’s convenient for industry.

He says Alberta should consider increasing penalties for offending companies and putting time limits on well cleanup.

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