Cleaning up the Alberta oilpatch could cost an estimated $260 billion, internal regulatory documents warn. The staggering financial liabilities for the energy industry’s mining waste and graveyard of spent facilities were spelled out by a high-ranking official of the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) in a presentation to a private audience in Calgary in February.
The estimated liabilities are far higher than any liability amount made public by government and industry officials. The official, Rob Wadsworth, Vice President of Closure and Liability for the AER, says a “flawed system” of industrial oversight is to blame.
He called on all stakeholders to accept tougher regulations and move away from a system that now allows the largest companies to take centuries to clean up their toxic well site graveyards.
“We can continue down our current path until the impacts are felt by the public … or we can start to implement the numerous changes that we now know need to be made,” the document says, adding that the liabilities are underfunded and the collection of security funds from industry is “insufficient.”
Until now, the public has been told the liabilities have been calculated at about $58 billion, far less than Wadsworth’s estimate. The report does not spell out what he based his estimate on and Wadsworth declined an interview. The government meanwhile has only collected $1.6 billion in liability security from companies.