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Alberta First Nations asks federal government to release $135M in funding

The funding was committed to the Site Rehabilitation Program to be used by these communities

Indigenous community leaders from across Alberta are asking the federal government to release about $135 million in funding.

The funding was committed to the Site Rehabilitation Program (SRP) to be used by First Nations communities to reclaim additional inactive and orphan wells on their lands, the community leaders said in a joint press release.

On Dec. 12, Chiefs from Treaty 6, Treaty 7, and Treaty 8 territories wrote to Minister Jonathan Wilkinson appealing to the federal government to allow the Government of Alberta to place unspent SRP monies into the program.

Without these funds, governments and industry would be leaving over 2,000 sites to be abandoned or reclaimed on First Nations lands and territories, the release stated.

“We still have many inactive wells on our lands that need to be reclaimed properly; we estimate nearly 2,000 sites which will cost over $225 million,” Chief Cody Thomas said.

“We acknowledge the work that has been done under the SRP but there is more to be done. This is a liability of the lessees, and the Alberta government is holding them accountable through the Well Closure Program. However, time is not on our side. We have a very limited land base and a growing population. We must do the necessary land stewardship immediately.”

Chief Ivan Sawan said, “Many Alberta First Nations have felt the greatest impacts of natural resource developments which have swept through our lands and ancestral territories for generations, leaving behind environmental wreckage, while being deprived of the opportunity to meaningfully participate or benefit.

“We are calling on the federal government to do the right thing and release these funds for the environmental and economic purposes they were intended so that First Nations can create meaningful job opportunities, clean up our lands, and create a healthier and more prosperous future for our people.”

Chief Roy Whitney also explained, “Too many oil and gas companies have simply walked away from their obligation to remediate their well sites on First Nation lands. The SRP was a way for First Nations to have abandoned sites reclaimed.

“Accordingly, it was with great disappointment that we learned that the federal government was not going to release the remaining funds for the SRP. We fully support the request for the remaining funds being held to be released to continue the work to clean up our lands.”