Green Party lauds commitment to fund environmental remediation of oil and gas industry

April 17, 2020

OTTAWA – The Green Party of Canada applauds today’s announcement by the Trudeau administration to invest $1.7 billion to clean up abandoned and inactive “orphan” oil and gas wells in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

The government will also establish a $750 million fund to reduce methane emissions with $75 million of that total tagged for the offshore oil and gas sector in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The government says the two initiatives will generate approximately 10,000 jobs in the energy sector and bring much-needed relief to workers in an industry beset by rock-bottom oil prices and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re pleased with the federal government’s announcement,” said Green Party parliamentary leader Elizabeth May (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands). “We have stated repeatedly that while we oppose subsidies to fossil fuels, we make an exception for funding to clean up orphan wells, creating employment for fossil fuel sector workers. Greens propose the work be undertaken in partnership with First Nations, and wherever possible, capturing renewable green energy through geothermal electricity.”

In February’s pre-budget submission to finance minister Bill Morneau, the Green Party underscored the fact that environmental remediation and restoration in the fossil fuel sector is labour intensive not capital intensive. The Green Party submission pointed out that if subsidies were shifted to the labour portions of remediation costs, the funds would have a significantly greater effect on employment and would encourage employers to spend on remediation while still in operations, rather than, as seems likely given history, to default on such liabilities in bankruptcy.

“We are in a climate emergency, and so these commitments are encouraging as they will help us prepare for the much more aggressive targets required under the terms of the Paris Agreement,” said Ms. May. “The release today of the shocking efforts of Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), using the excuse of the COVID-19 pandemic to roll-back environmental and climate actions, as well as lobbying rules, should give all Canadians a sense of relief that CAPP is not calling the shots.”

Green caucus critic for labour, employment, workforce development and disability inclusion, Paul Manly (MP, Nanaimo-Ladysmith) affirmed that subsidizing the cleanup of orphaned and abandoned oil wells is the first step towards a just transition for oil and gas workers. “Workers who are the casualties of an international price and supply war do need relief,” said Manly.

“After the mess left behind by the oil industry is cleaned up these workers need opportunities to use their skills in the transition to a new energy economy. Iron and Earth, an organization formed by former fossil fuel workers, has identified that most energy workers could easily transition to the creation of renewable energy infrastructure such as an east-west electrical grid and geothermal, wind, solar and tidal generation.”

“Let’s face it,” concluded Manly, “fossil fuel corporations have been dining on Canadian resources and dashing on the clean up bill for decades.”

Greens have long urged the federal government to focus on the economic opportunities that come with the shift to the Green economy and to ensure that there is a “just transition” for fossil fuel workers. Mission Possible – the Green Climate Action Plan outlines a clear and comprehensive strategy to transition towards a zero-carbon economy through the creation of new industries and well-paid jobs.

“COVID-19 is understandably on everyone’s mind right now, and we must continue to focus our efforts on doing everything we can to help Canadians get through this difficult time financially, safely and responsibly,” said Green Party Interim Leader Jo-Ann Roberts. “Today’s news that the government will bring some economic relief to fossil fuel workers, while at the same time committing to our climate goals, is welcome indeed.”

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