A de-commissioned pumpjack is shown at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Bankrupt energy companies can’t abandon old wells, Supreme Court rules

An estimated 1,800 wells representing more than $100 million in liabilities have been abandoned since the case came to court

The Supreme Court of Canada says the trustee for a bankrupt Alberta energy company cannot simply walk away from unprofitable wells on agricultural land without having to clean up.

The high court’s 5-2 ruling overturns an Alberta Court of Appeal ruling that upheld a 2016 decision in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench that effectively allowed a bankrupt energy company to sever its connection with unprofitable and unreclaimed wells when the company’s assets were sold off to creditors.

The Supreme Court ruled today that the bankruptcy trustee, Grant Thornton Ltd., cannot walk away from its end-of-life obligations to render abandoned wells environmentally safe.

The ruling turned on the conflict between federal bankruptcy law and provincial jurisdiction over the environment and energy sector.

Alberta’s provincial energy regulator ordered the trustee for Redwater Energy Corporation to comply with end-of-life requirements to render the abandoned properties environmentally safe.

The company’s trustee did not comply, and filed its own counterclaim that included a challenge to the regulator’s action, citing the paramouncy of federal bankruptcy law.

Since the case came to court, an estimated 1,800 wells representing more than $100 million in liabilities have been abandoned.

Alberta’s energy regulator and the Orphan Well Association, an industry-funded group that cleans up wells that have been left unreclaimed, appealed the ruling to the high court.

A group with the support of thousands of farmers also wanted to see the high court reverse the decision.

The Action Surface Rights Association intervened in the case because it believes rights of landowners have been overlooked in the case.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Santa Extravaganza a holiday hit

The Christmas event radiated good cheer throughout downtown Quesnel

‘Early Crow’ tickets available for ArtsWells 2020

Early discounted tickets for the festival in Wells are on sale now

Unintentionally trapped cougar safely released near Williams Lake

Conservation officers tranquilized and transported it a short distance before watching it walk away

Witnesses sought after Highway 97 crash

Police ask witnesses to contact the detachment at 250-392-6211

‘A loud sonic boom’: Gabriola Island residents recount fatal plane crash

Area where the plane went down is primarily a residential neighbourhood, RCMP say

Process to identify those killed in Gabriola plane crash could take days

Canadian flight museum suggests Alex Bahlsen of Mill Bay died in Tuesday’s crash

‘Honest mistake:’ RCMP says B.C. cannabis shop can keep image of infamous Mountie

Sam Steele wearing military, not RCMP uniform in image depicted in Jimmy’s Cannabis window

B.C. conservation officers put down fawn blinded by BB gun on Vancouver Island

Young deer found near construction site in Hammond Bay area in Nanaimo, B.C.

Laid-off forest workers converge on B.C. legislature

Loggers call for action on strike, provincial stumpage

B.C. guide fined $2K in first conviction under new federal whale protection laws

Scott Babcock found guilty of approaching a North Pacific humpback whale at less than 100 metres

Feds urge Air Canada to fix booking problems as travel season approaches

The airline introduced the new reservation system more than three weeks ago

Almost 14,000 Canadians killed by opioids since 2016: new national study

17,000 people have been hospitalized for opioid-related poisoning

Chevron’s move to exit Kitimat LNG project a dash of ‘cold water’ for gas industry

Canada Energy Regulator approved a 40-year licence to export natural gas for Kitimat LNG

Most Read