Indigenous leaders are concerned their communities may be left out as Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia begin spending C$1.5 billion in federal funds to clean up abandoned oil and gas wells left behind by deadbeat fossils.
“The three provincial governments have already started dispersing the money, but so far none of it has been directed toward remediating wells on First Nations land,” CBC reports, citing Indian Resource Council President Stephen Buffalo, whose organization represents more than 100 communities with oil and gas on their territories. “The IRC is asking that each province allocate 10% of the federal money it receives to First Nations, which would represent about $150 million,” the national broadcaster says.
“We have been here before, where we were told things will be taken care of. Right now, we’re in working committees [with government officials]. Meanwhile, these funds are being flowed out,” Buffalo said. “I don’t think some of our members are satisfied with how the process is going.”
CBC says British Columbia is the only one of the three provinces that has hinted at a set-aside for Indigenous communities. “The second increment of $50 million may include a specific allocation for Indigenous contractors,” the province wrote earlier this month, in a letter to the IRC. Saskatchewan said “Indigenous businesses, communities, and peoples will benefit appropriately from all phases of the well cleanup program,” the national broadcaster writes, while an Alberta spokesperson wrote that “the necessary supports are in place to build broad Indigenous community participation.”
But with at least 900 wells on Indigenous land that would qualify for federal funding, Buffalo said his members are looking for a firm commitment. “I’m just hoping that we don’t fall through the cracks,” he said. “Not everyone feels confident with the process that we’re going through right now.”
The communities’ “primary concern is to clean up the wells to ensure there aren’t any leaks that could contaminate First Nations land,” CBC says. “The spending could also provide jobs in communities and activity for Indigenous-owned oilfield service companies.””