MPP Bobbi-Ann Brady concerned all constituency wells may not end well
Haldimand-Norfolk Independent MPP Bobbi-Ann Brady is concerned that all that is related to gas wells in her constituency may not end well.
To encourage effort in a more positive direction, she would prefer to see sitting governments not fix what isn’t broken while stepping up financially in support of what potentially is.
“Focus on where the problem is,” Brady summed up succinctly.
She sees two main, related more than they may appear on the surface issues with gas wells in Ontario. Historically speaking, Brady says as many as 50,000 oil and gas wells were drilled across Ontario in the past 150 years. Currently, gas wells in Ontario are governed under the Oil, Gas and Salt Resources Act.
Those which ceased commercially viable operation are in the main, capped, abandoned or still in production. Some of the latter saw transfer of ownership to the property owner. A number of these wells continue to produce on a smaller scale for private landowners. This latter group may use gas produced from private wells to heat houses, barns or shops, for example. Operational wells are inspected and must be within compliance to continue production.
Of concern to those with privately owned wells says Brady is notification from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) that their operating licenses will not be renewed past Sept. 13, 2032, regardless of whether the wells are in compliance of regulations.
“That is very, very concerning to those that depend on them. If these licensed wells are in compliance, what is the harm in them holding these licenses?”
Rather than focussing on compliant, licensed privately-owned and producing wells, Brady would rather see attention placed on the large number of dormant, some essentially abandoned and unmaintained, wells in the area.
“South-western Ontario is ground central for these dormant wells,” says Brady, citing 2,600 in Norfolk County alone.
“Thousands have been drilled and can pose a problem. And nobody is paying attention to them.”
Just because a well is abandoned does not necessarily mean it poses a risk or the potential to become a problem. Capping them to limit issues is the generally accepted approach.
However, as the situation along Forestry Farm Road and in the Silver Hill area does indicate, there is potential for what Brady characterizes as the ‘whack-a-mole effect’ in which one problem may be dealt with or capped, only to pop up in another location.
Popping up with associated issues potentially including hydrogen sulphide gas, an unpleasant and potentially toxic substance.
“It smells like rotten eggs,” says Brady. “And can become a problem and cost the municipality a lot of money and cause a lot of grief.”
Depending on which expert you speak to, there is a different approach, she continued.
If there is consistency however, it’s that each approach potentially represents a ‘whack-of-money,’ amounts which could financially challenge a municipality.
“I suspect the government doesn’t want to open up Pandora’s Box,” Brady surmised.
Citing a constructive working relationship with MNRF Minister Graydon Smith, Brady spoke to ‘good communication.’ She asked the minister a question in the provincial legislature not in an aggressive, confrontational manner, rather to give him the opportunity to speak to the issue.
“It was a question to give the electorate an answer on what the ministry is doing.”
In the end, Brady’s opinion is federal funding is required, similar to what has been allocated to solving the issue of dormant wells in other provinces.
“Ontario needs to lean on the federal government to get help for funding to deal with the dormant wells,” Brady concluded. “Just like they did in the west.”