Industry should pay to clean up its own mess

You expect opposition politicians to come out against whatever the government does. The system just works that way. So the fact the Alberta NDP doesn’t like the Government of Alberta’s proposed plan to get orphan wells cleaned up isn’t saying much. But a lot of other people are upset about it as well.

Paul McLauchlin, the president of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA), and reeve of Ponoka County, is one of them. The program, which would incentivize well clean-up at the cost of future oil royalties, is “exactly how a fox would design a henhouse,” he was quoted as saying in several recent news articles.

The program, called the Liability Management Incentive Program, comes on top of a ‘tax holiday’ on new drilling that already has rural municipalities cheesed off. When oil was $30 a barrel it was justifiable, maybe, but at $90? When companies are raking in the profits? In both cases, the province is making itself look like a much better friend of big, rich corporations than of the regular folks who struggle to look after our roads and bridges.

Companies are going to take whatever they can get, of course. Maximizing profits for their shareholders, after all, is their principal purpose. It’s up to government to impose some sort of balance in the equation. Giving polluters a free pass on the public purse is not the right balance, in the view of many.

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