The Wetaskiwin Synergy Initiative meeting held at the Angus Ridge Hall the evening of January 19th provided very good information for landowners regarding the negotiation of lease agreements with oil and gas companies. Everything is negotiable, so landowners need to do their homework and make sure that every aspect of who, what, where, when, why and how is satisfactorily covered before signing the contract. The Farmers’ Advocate Office is an excellent resource to assist in knowing how to proceed.
Carol Goodfellow, from the Farmers’ Advocate Office, was the presenter. She displayed an excellent understanding of the subject as a whole and carefully noted the differences between a Surface Rights Agreement and a Right of Entry order and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Only a company seeking entry can apply for the Right of Entry, but a Surface Rights Agreement can still be negotiated even after an ROE is in place. It is the responsibility of the landowner to do the research and gain the knowledge needed regarding rates of compensation, what works and what doesn’t, how to mitigate risk in all aspects such as protection of water wells, weed control, fencing, and even requirement for a courtesy notice for any future entry. The important thing is to be aware of all possible concerns and negotiate acceptable ways of dealing with each one for inclusion in a lease agreement so that there are no unpleasant surprises later. . The Farmers’ Advocate Office, Synergy groups, Surface Rights groups, and neighbours are all prime sources of information. Also discussed were some of the complex situations which can arise when land is rented, sold, or inherited.
Until January 29th, the ERCB is accepting public input regarding contemplated changes in the spacing of wells. Technology now allows up to 16 wells to be drilled from one pad, so an increase in the number of wells does not mean the use of greater surface area. It does mean that rigs may return to previously used pads to drill additional wells. The contemplated changes are to go from one oil well per quarter section to two, to go from one gas well per section to two, and elimination of spacing requirements on coal bed methane wells which have always had multiple wells from each pad. The spacing regulations are essentially written in stone by the ERCB.
Newer fracturing technology is also changing the way older wells are handled. Wells as much as 40 or 50 years old may be refracted in order to gain additional production from them. In most cases, access to do this is covered under the right to access in the existing agreement.
NEW RECLAMATION CRITERIA will be the topic at a February 8th meeting in the Warburg Community Hall, 7:30 p.m., and anyone from any of the surrounding Synergy groups are welcome to attend.
There were not many landowners attending the January 19th meeting, perhaps because of uncertain road and weather conditions. The farmers with whom I spoke were very positive about their experiences with lease agreements with the production companies working in their area. They had found the Farmers’ Advocate Office very helpful in this area and in many other ways. However, there was a full turnout of representatives from all the industry companies which are members of the WSI. All enjoyed the delicious pie served at the end of the meeting.
Synergy groups have been developed on the premise that mutual respect, meeting together, sharing information, and listening to each other can go a long way toward minimizing conflict. Open, honest communication from all stakeholders, especially government and industry, can go a long way toward eliminating the costly disagreements which are part of the history of resource development in Alberta, some occurring as recently as the plans for a new major north-south power line, plans which were cancelled until new and more restrictive legislation assured a more positive outcome when combined with better communication. Would greater transparency and honesty in the first place have led to a satisfactory compromise in the first place and made the more restrictive legislation and the costly duplicate process unnecessary? Is there adequate realization that stakeholders are as important a part of the “public” as any others, and that “public good” is not “good” unless it is as “good” for the stakeholders as it is for any other part of the “public”?