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press release

SCC decision on abandoned oil wells a victory for environment and public but problems remain, Ecojustice says

January 31, 2019

CALGARY – The Supreme Court of Canada ruled today that cleaning up abandoned oil and gas wells must come before the interests of creditors after a company has gone bankrupt. Ecojustice lawyer Barry Robinson issued the following statement in response:

“The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that bankruptcy trustees must put the environment first. This is a win for the environment and good news for landowners and Albertans.

“However, the fact remains that, by the time oil and gas companies go bankrupt, they are often worth little to nothing. This means that even if the court says bankruptcy trustees must make cleaning up orphaned well sites a priority, there might not be enough money left over to cover those costs.

“The longer Alberta’s 89,000 inactive wells languish, the greater the risk of environmental contamination and harm to the Albertans who own the land where the wells are located. While Ecojustice welcomes the court’s decision, we maintain that the best way for the province to address the problem of abandoned oil and gas wells is to require companies make a security deposit before drilling.”


Ecojustice, Canada’s largest environmental law charity, goes to court and uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment for all.

Update: A previous version of this press release incorrectly stated that there were 89,000 orphaned wells in Alberta at the time of publication. In fact, there were approximately 89,000 inactive wells in Alberta and approximately 4,500 orphaned wells.