The Alberta government has announced its support of Indigenous efforts to keep unused federal funds from the Site Rehabilitation Program in Alberta. 

Launched in May 2020, the Site Rehabilitation Program has been an effort to clean up and reclaim land in Indigenous regions from abandoned oil and gas sites.

“The Site Rehabilitation Program is a tried, tested and true vehicle for economic reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples,” said Rick Wilson, minister of Indigenous Relations. “It has provided meaningful job opportunities and work experience, while also reclaiming the land so the communities can use it again. We need flexibility from the federal government to continue this important work.”

The province has since worked alongside First Nations communities, businesses, the Indian Resource Council, and the Metis Settlements General Council to perform well, pipeline, and oil and gas site closure and reclamation work. 

Through the program, the Government of Canada allocated $1 billion to Alberta, with $133.3 million dedicated to cleaning up inactive oil and gas sites in Indigenous communities. 

The Site Rehabilitation Program saw grant funding approved and allocated to more than 500 Alberta-based companies, which resulted in the creation of, according to the province, approximately 4,135 jobs. 

“We acknowledge the work that has been done under the Site Rehabilitation Program, but there is more to be done. This is a liability of the lessees, and the Alberta Government is holding them accountable through the Well Closure Program,” said Cody Thomas, chief of the Enoch Cree Nation. “However, time is not on our side. We have a very limited land base and a growing population. We must do the necessary land stewardship immediately.”

The province has released approximately $137 million of the original $1 billion remains unused by First Nations grant recipients, and the Government of Canada is now requesting those funds be returned to Ottawa. 

Closure work was completed on 1,824 inactive well sites during the Indigenous community grant program. 

Chiefs from Treaties 6, 7, and 8 territories, as well as the Indian Resource Council, have requested the federal government allocate these remaining unused funds to further site clean up on Indigenous lands. 

“We are doing what we can to keep that program going to maintain the success of the initial Site Rehabilitation Program. About 350 community members received jobs and skills training,” said Stephen Buffalo, president and CEO of the Indian Resource Council of Canada. “By removing the aging wells and pipelines, we can free up land to use for housing and other purposes. This is why we need the surplus funds.”

More information about the Site Rehabilitation Program is available via the Government of Alberta YouTube channel, as well as through their website.

By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 27, 2024 at 12:10

This item reprinted with permission from   Strathmore Times   Strathmore, Alberta
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