Landowners in limbo
Recent downturns and uncertainty in the oil economy have left some landowners without lease payments, but with ongoing activity and unfarmable land.
Until a well has been deemed “orphaned” and the leased land reclaimed, which may be many years, the landowner is out not only the lease payments but also out the use of the land.
Many people suffer when a company fails. Jobs are lost, shares are devalued, suppliers and contractors aren’t paid and governments are out their levy, royalty and tax revenues. But unlike the landowner, these people had a choice regarding their participation in this project. Although the majority of leases and easements are agreed to without arbitration, the reality is that land owners cannot prevent this use of their land because of provincial “Right to Enter” legislation. Unless a burial site or some endangered species are located on the proposed lease/easement, the project is a go.
Eminent domain, or “supreme lordship,” is what we know as expropriation. It has traditionally been used for public uses such as roads, not for private corporate needs. However, landowners face a situation where they cannot refuse to participate in a private oil or gas well or pipe line, but have no real protection if the endeavor fails.
Communication with government has yielded no recourse that is available to land owners other than “consult your lawyer.”
However, it is the government that must write legislation and regulations that will entitle landowners to fair treatment. We do not have the right to a truly voluntary market, where both buyer and seller must agree to the terms freely without threat. So we need, at the very least, the industry to fund not only an adequate orphan well program, but also a “missing payment” fund.
If not, we’ll continue to face a “no payment but unfarmable” situation.
Lyle Wright, Chairman,
West central Section, Sask.
Surface Rights Organization