The Alberta government says it has included several measures in its Site Rehabilitation Program (SRP) to strengthen Indigenous participation in its $1 billion plan to clean up abandoned wells in the province.
According to the Kenney government, an Indigenous liaison will be appointed to help facilitate First Nations’ participation in the program. The government says it will also establish an ongoing working group that will include Indigenous communities and Indigenous-owned companies.
The working group is expected to strengthen relationships between Indigenous-owned or operated oil field service contractors and Indigenous communities with oil and gas sites on their lands and surrounding areas.
One of the 50 companies participating in the working group is Backwoods Energy Service, an oil field service company owned by the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation.
Grand Chief Billy Morin, Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations, and Chief of Enoch Cree Nation said “As majority shareholder of Backwoods Energy Services, we are pleased to see the investment into Indigenous communities as well as the partnership between Enoch Cree Nation, the Site Rehabilitation Program and Backwoods Energy.
“The program provides important initial funding to clean up well sites throughout Alberta and within Alexis Traditional Territory.”
Through the first round of the SRP, the Kenney government says Backwoods Energy has been approved to conduct closure work on 55 sites on Enoch Cree Nation. Western Petroleum Management, another Indigenous company, was approved to conduct work on 257 sites across the province.
The Alberta government expects further involvement in the Site Rehabilitation Program from other Indigenous companies in subsequent rounds of the two-year program.
Along with cleaning up some of Alberta’s abandoned oil wells, SRP is part of Alberta’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan.
“It will create thousands of jobs, and help to save energy service companies during this crisis in the oil and gas industry,” said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. “We’re doing everything we can to ensure that Indigenous Albertans participate in this program, as workers, contractors and by cleaning up abandoned wells on First Nations Reserves.”
Chief Tony Alexis of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation says the program will help Backwoods and hundreds of other companies get back to work following the COVID shutdown and drop in oil prices.
“This program will get thousands of Albertans working again and will accelerate our clean-up and reclamation efforts,” said Alexis. “We continue to make enhancements to the program. With $900 million left to distribute, we will ensure the program’s positive impacts reach across the province.”
The program was launched on May 1 and has so far allocated $69 million to 140 companies. According to Rick Wilson, Minister of Indigenous Relations, “this will create more than 300 of the approximately 5,300 jobs the program is expected to create.”
Wilson says the program will provide grants to employ oil field service workers, biologists, chemists, engineers, foresters and geoscience technologists in cleaning up abandoned oil and gas sites in Alberta.
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