Dormant well program a win-win, says Dawson Creek mayor

·2 min read

A second intake is underway for the Province’s Dormant Sites Reclamation Program.

Another $50 million being put towards supporting BC’s oil and gas industry, with the aiming of reducing environmental impacts.

Applications are open for service companies to do contract work on site nominated in 2020, focusing clean-up efforts on community needs. In total, $120 million is being put forward by the federal government for three different well reclamation programs.

Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead joined Bruce Ralston, BC's Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, and Jonathan Wilkinson, Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change for a Thursday three-way discussion on the program.

Bumstead says the funding is an important partnership between federal, provincial, and municipal governments, and comes at a time when many Canadians are financially struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When you try to initiate these programs, you’re always looking to find that win-win. To find that opportunity that provides value,” said Bumstead.

He added that the environment is the top win of the program, followed by local economic benefits, improved relations with First Nations partners, and returning land to agriculture use.

“The evolution of industry in Northeast BC started 70 years ago, and so there’s an accumulation of infrastructure that’s been built over many decades. So for us, to start the inroads of having an impact on the environment, it’s been very beneficial,” Bumstead said.

Ralston says the program is a success.

“Given the downturn as the result of COVID, it’s provided work for landowners that has to be done,” said Ralston. “But there has to be some funding to support that. It’s also been a real boon to the other sector, the field service sector.”

Companies can receive up to $100,000 or 50% of total costs, whichever is less, per eligible work activity. There were 79 service companies that undertook reclamation work on 1,880 dormant wells in the province, creating over 1,200 jobs when the first intake completed in September 2020.

An online nomination portal was available to Indigenous communities, landowners and local governments to help prioritize dormant oil or natural gas sites.

Wilkinson says the programs are critical to safeguarding the environment.

"Through this program, we are preventing the leakage of methane emissions that are harmful to human health and the environment, supporting landowners by helping to restore their lands, and protecting and creating good jobs right here in British Columbia,” said Wilkinson. "Five dormant wells were reclaimed in species at risk habitat critical to the woodland caribou in northeast B.C."

Another 669 dormant wells are slated for work near the Snake-Sahtahneh Range.

Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News