$120 million for orphan wells

Premier John Horgan announced Wednesday $120 million in funding to clean up 2,000 dormant and orphan wells in northern B.C.

Horgan announced the news while also extending the province's state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic by another two weeks.

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The funding to clean up wells comes in partnership with the federal government.

“This is an environmental stain on British Columbia,” said Horgan, calling on industry to help in the initiative.

There are 1,200 jobs to be created through the program, using industry contractors. The province says funding will be open to oil and gas field service companies and contractors based in B.C., with registration, office and operations in B.C. 

Around 7,685 wells are dormant in B.C., with 357 orphaned, or abandoned. The program will be delivered in three areas: dormant site reclamation, orphaned site reclamation program, and legacy site reclamation programs, said Energy Minister Bruce Ralston.

First Nations, local governments, and landowners will be able to nominate dormant, orphan, and legacy sites for priority cleanup, the province said. Applications for that will open May 25.

“These measures complement the Covid-19 plan,” said Ralston.

This is the fourth time the emergency status has been extended in the province since it was first declared on March 18.

Wednesday's announcement was good news for First Nations in northeast B.C.

Doig River Chief Trevor Makadahay said the program will create jobs for his band members.

"Doig River is pleased that the Province of B.C. is making steps to further manage the impacts of development on our territory through reclamation and restoration programs," Makadahay said.

"We are committed to cleaning up our land base and look forward to exploring the opportunities these programs create for our band membership, our company Uujo Developments and our environmental partner Tervita Corporation."

Said Saulteau Chief Ken Cameron, "We are ready to share our traditional knowledge, technical expertise and project management skills. We believe that by working together with government and industry, we can create long-term sustainable economies and restore landscapes to their natural state, after oil and gas activities are completed."

The provincial state of emergency will remain in place for the foreseeable future, Horgan said, noting 78% of British Columbians who have contracted COVID-19 are now fully recovered. Another 130 people have died from the virus that causes the respiratory disease.

"COVID-19 is still here," said Horgan. "Over this long weekend, we need to hold the line. We need to avoid all non-essential travel."

Email reporter Tom Summer at tsummer@ahnfsj.ca

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