Alta. to block developments on inactive oil wells

Alberta developers, who until now have been urged to steer clear of abandoned oil and gas wells when planning projects, will soon be told rather than asked.

Amendments to the province’s Subdivision and Development Regulation, taking effect Nov. 1, will require permit applications from developers or municipalities to include information about whether abandoned wells are present within a proposed subdivision or development.

The application will also be required to show that the development is a minimum of five metres (16.4 feet) away from any such well.

"Abandoned" wells, for the purpose of the new rule, are any inactive oil or gas wells that have been permanently shut down and cut off one to two metres below the surface, as per the rules laid out by the province’s Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB).

The new rules will apply to all new subdivision applications and development permits for new buildings over 500 square feet, or for additions that make a building larger than 500 square feet. Additions to, or replacements of, existing buildings will also have to comply with the new setbacks.

Those applying for subdivision or development approval can contact the ERCB to confirm whether there are any capped wells on the property, the province said.

The province, in a release, said it has "encouraged" developers and municipalities since 1996 to check for abandoned wells and plan out appropriate setbacks from such wells before starting new developments.

The new amendments "will make the practice mandatory," the province’s municipal affairs ministry said.

Related story:
Alta. moves to streamline assessment appeals, March 19, 2009

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