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

High winds could lead to dangerous snowmobiling conditions

Advice for staying safe on the mountains Family Day weekend

Clearwater Library hosting open house

Event takes place Feb. 15 from 2—4 p.m.

Road conditions for Feb. 15

Slippery sections on Highway 5

Man caught in fatal avalanche ID’ed as Alberta man in his 20s

Outdoor guides warn against high winds in the mountains Family Day weekend

VIDEO: Historic night in Red Deer as 2019 Canada Winter Games kicks off

Star-studded Opening Ceremony features athletes from across Canada

B.C. students win Great Waters Challenge video contest

Video, mural and song about saving the salmon claims the top prize

B.C. couple attacked with acid, slashed with knife in Vietnam

Warning, graphic images: Man has burns on 80 per cent of his body, slashed with knife

Flying squirrels found to glow pink in the dark, including two from B.C.

Squirrels from Hope and Abbotsford were included in the biologists’ database

Ontario police field complaints over Amber Alert for missing girl, 11, found dead

Some said the Amber Alert issued late Thursday for Riya Rajkumar disrupted their sleep

Names keep adding to vaccine petition started by B.C. mom

Maple Ridge mom started campaign to make vaccination a condition of attending school

Northern B.C. First Nation clan says ancient tools found at pipeline work site

Archeologists from the Smithsonian Institute estimate one of the stones found dates back up to 3500 years

Wilson-Raybould resignation stokes anger, frustration within veterans community

Liberals have had three veterans-affairs ministers — Kent Hehr, Seamus O’Regan and Wilson-Raybould

Most Read