On February 12. 2021, the governments of Alberta and Canada advanced the economic revitalization of Indigenous businesses and communities by ensuring that they play a meaningful role in Alberta’s post-pandemic energy strategy. The latest action allocates $100 million of federal Site Rehabilitation Program (SRP) grant funding to clean up and restore inactive oil and gas sites in Indigenous communities across the province of Alberta.
“First and foremost, I am thankful to the Creator for another day and for the bounty that Mother Earth provides. The SRP Indigenous set aside will allow Alberta First Nations and Metis Settlements to reduce liabilities by decommissioning and cleaning up well sites across Alberta. During this time, First Nations-owned companies and member-owned companies, along with existing and new partnership creations, can get working to create gainful employment in a difficult period as this pandemic and downturn of the oil industry has caused hardships for many. We look forward to working with the province, ministers, industry, Indian Resource Council and service providers to make this program a success. ‘Our Mother Earth takes care of us, as her children, we need to take care of her,’” said Chief Greg Desjarlais, Frog Lake First Nations #121 and #122.
Alberta’s government worked with Indigenous communities, Indigenous businesses, the Indian Resource Council and the Metis Settlements General Council to develop the details of this grant allotment, which includes $85 million for First Nations reserves and $15 million for Metis Settlements to work with licensees to close sites located on or around their lands.
“This is an investment in a strong future for Indigenous people in Alberta, who will benefit from the jobs created and the reclaimed lands in their communities. Programs like this are game-changers for Indigenous communities,” stated Rick Wilson, Minister of Indigenous Relations.
A second new funding allotment will provide up to $300 million to oil and gas producers who had production in 2019 and paid for closure work in 2019 or 2020.
“The Site Rehabilitation Program is cleaning up legacy oil and gas sites across the province and creating thousands of much-needed jobs. As stewards of the land, this funding will ensure that Indigenous people benefit from resource development on land that was first inhabited by their ancestors,” said Sonya Savage, Minister of Energy.
This is the program’s largest grant period and is designed to give contractors and licensees the funding and time to work on closure projects of all scopes and sizes – leading to the cleanup of a significant number of oil and gas sites across the province. As with all rounds of the Site Rehabilitation Program, only new work conducted after May 1, 2020 is eligible for grant funding.
“Working with Minister Savage and the Government of Alberta, we are creating jobs, cleaning up our environment, and supporting the hard-working people in our oil and gas sector – including in First Nations and Métis communities,” explained Seamus O’Regan Jr., Minister of Natural Resources.
Including these two rounds, which will open to applications on Feb. 12, $800 million in SRP grants have been made available to eligible applicants since launching in May 2020.
“This $100-million collaboration between First Nations represented by the Indian Resource Council, the Metis Settlements and the Government of Alberta shows unprecedented progress towards reconcili-action in the protection of land, lives and livelihoods,” said Chief William (Billy) Morin of the Enoch Cree Nation.
In total, the program is expected to generate almost 5,300 direct jobs and lead to indirect employment – and economic benefits – across the province.
“Closure work creates jobs and positive environmental outcomes that enhance Alberta’s ESG record and provides valuable economic benefits to rural communities. PSAC has long advocated for a mechanism to accelerate the decommissioning of orphan and inactive sites to provide the sector with jobs during this prolonged downturn. We are pleased that the Governments of Canada and Alberta have heard us and responded with this important program,” stated Elizabeth Aquin, interim president and CEO, Petroleum Services Association of Canada.
The Alberta government continues to work with an Industry Advisory Committee and an Indigenous Roundtable to help make continuous improvements to the program and its processes.
- Through the Site Rehabilitation Program (SRP), launched in May 2020, the Alberta government is directing up to $1 billion of federal oil and gas COVID-19 economic stimulus over two years to get Albertans back to work by speeding up well, pipeline and site closure efforts in the energy sector;
- As of Feb. 12, $310.3 million of grant funding has been allocated to 633 Alberta-based companies for periods 1 through 4 of the program;
- Applications for grant periods 5 and 6 will remain open until March 31, 2022;
- During period 6, Indigenous communities will be provided a community-specific allocation;
- Contractors have until Dec. 31, 2022, to complete their work through the program; and
- Remaining grant periods for the balance of the $1-billion funding commitment will be announced in the coming months.
Photo of oil well in Alberta via flickr/davebloggs007, creative commons.