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First Nations worry they'll lose out on cash to clean up old oil and gas wells in Western Canada –



As Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan dole out $1.5 billion in federal funding to reclaim inactive oil and gas wells, Indigenous leaders are concerned none of the cash will be spent cleaning up their land.

The federal government announced the program as part of its aid package to the oilpatch, designed to stimulate work for the oilfield service sector while reducing the environmental risk from aging infrastructure.

The three provincial governments have already started dispersing the money, but so far none of it has been directed toward remediating wells on First Nations land, said Stephen Buffalo, president of the Indian Resource Council, which represents more than 100 First Nations with oil and gas reserves.

“We have been here before where we were told that things will be taken care of. Right now, we’re in working committees [with government officials]. Meanwhile, these funds are being flowed out,” Buffalo said.

“I don’t think some of our members are satisfied with how the process is going.” 

An oil pumpjack in southwestern Alberta. The province, which has tens of thousands of inactive wells, has received $1 billion from Ottawa for remediation. (Meghan Grant/CBC)

The federal money was divided between B.C. ($120 million), Alberta ($1 billion) and Saskatchewan ($400 million). Another $200 million from Ottawa to Alberta’s Orphan Well Association is to be repaid. 

As of June 19, the Alberta government had approved $40 million to more than 102 companies.

The government spending is proving popular with industry. For example, the first phase of Alberta’s program gives companies up to $30,000 to clean up wells. Within the first month of the program’s launch on May 1, about 3,000 companies had already applied to remediate close to 37,000 wells.

The IRC is asking that each province allocate 10 per cent of the federal money it receives to First Nations, which would represent about $150 million.

So far, only British Columbia has signalled a willingness to set aside funding specifically for First Nations. “The second increment of $50 million may include a specific allocation for Indigenous contractors,” said a letter from the province to the IRC earlier this month.

A crew works to abandon a natural gas well in Alberta. As of June 19, the provincial government had approved $40 million to more than 102 companies to reclaim unused wells. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

In an emailed statement, Saskatchewan government spokesperson Ashley Schoff said Indigenous businesses, communities and peoples will benefit appropriately from all phases of the well cleanup program. The government is working on its engagement process and intends to reach out to Indigenous groups in the “coming days and weeks,” she said. Is there a specific allocation?

The Alberta government also did not commit to a specific allocation, but spokesperson Kavi Bal said in an emailed statement that “the necessary supports are in place to build broad Indigenous community participation.”

WATCH | Stephen Buffalo on the opportunity to clean up inactive wells:

The CEO of the Indian Resource Council doesn’t want First Nations to miss out on the opportunity to remediate inactive oil and gas wells. 1:22

Buffalo said discussions are taking place with all three provinces. But he said what First Nations really need is a firm commitment.

“I’m just hoping that we don’t fall through the cracks,” he said. “Not everyone feels confident with the process that we’re going through right now.”

Buffalo said the primary concern is to clean up the wells to ensure there aren’t any leaks that could contaminate First Nations land. The spending could also provide jobs in communities and activity for Indigenous-owned oilfield service companies.

There are at least 900 wells on First Nations land that would qualify for the federal funding, said Chief Roy Fox of the Blood Tribe in southwest Alberta. In a letter to federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller this month, he said that he is afraid little if any of the money will go toward cleaning up wells on Indigenous territory.

Indian Oil and Gas Canada, the federal agency that manages resource development on First Nations lands, is encouraging the three provinces to ensure that some of the money from Ottawa is allocated to Indigenous groups.

“This will boost employment opportunities for community members and promote their general well-being, specially in such unprecedented times,” Strater Crowfoot, the agency’s CEO, wrote in separate letters to the three provincial governments.

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Health Unit reports 35 new COVID-19 cases Saturday – Windsor Star



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The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Windsor and Essex County jumped by 35 as of Saturday morning, with at least one grocery store employee testing positive.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is reporting 35 new cases for a total of 1,656 confirmed cases in the area, with the number of deaths holding steady at 68.

An employee at the Real Canadian Superstore at 4371 Walker Rd., recently tested positive on a presumptive test for COVID-19, said a Loblaw’s public relations spokesperson.

“We are working with the local public health team and have taken a number of steps to minimize risk, including increased sanitization protocols and enforcing social distancing practices in the store,” according to the emailed response. “The store also arranged for additional cleaning and has since reopened.

“Team members who worked closely with this individual are now at home in self-isolation, monitoring for any symptoms.”

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Health Unit Announces 35 New Cases of COVID-19 – AM800 (iHeartRadio)



The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit has announced 35 new cases of COVID-19.

The newest cases announced Saturday includes 20 in the agri-farm sector.

Among the other cases, two involve healthcare workers, 12 are community based while one remains under investigation.

There are now 1,656 confirmed cases in the area with 68 deaths while 994 cases have been resolved.

The health unit also reports outbreaks at two long-term care homes.

There is also an outbreak at four workplaces, two in Kingsville and two in Leamington, which means there is two or more positive cases involving the workforce.

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Oil pares weekly gain amid virus fears, signs of tighter supply –



Oil slipped on Friday, paring a weekly gain, as concern of demand erosion from a coronavirus resurgence countered strong U.S. economic data.

Futures fell to about US$40 a barrel in New York as the virus continues to spread unabated across large parts of the U.S., clouding the outlook for energy demand. Crude prices gained 4.2 per cent for the week as data showed a rebound in the U.S. jobs market accelerated in early June and American crude stockpiles shrank by the most this year. A survey showed OPEC oil production dropped last month to the lowest since 1991.

The worsening pandemic may not have been fully captured in the jobs data, which provided a snapshot of hiring in the middle of the month before many states reversed course on their re-openings.

“We have had a sharp recovery in demand for energy products that has occurred from March to end of May,” Daniel Ghali, a TD Securities commodity strategist, said by phone. “Since then the pace of recovery has slowed. There is concern that this stall may be a signal of weakness in demand that’s tied to the rise in coronavirus cases in the U.S.”

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Adding to the murky demand outlook, Chinese oil inventories swelled to a record this week, satellite data show, after the world’s biggest oil importer went on a buying spree last quarter as the economy rebounded. The stockpiles may indicate a slowdown in buying by the East Asian country.

That outlook was balanced by the OPEC+ alliance’s commitment to reducing output, with Russia showing near total compliance with its targets. The group hasn’t made any decision yet on whether to extend its full cutback — which stands at 9.6 million barrels a day — into August, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said. Ministers from the coalition next meet on July 15.

West Texas Intermediate for August delivery fell 51 cents US to US$40.14 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange as of 11:18 a.m. local time, after closing up 2.1 per cent on Thursday. Brent for September settlement declined 49 cents US to US$42.65 on the ICE Futures Europe exchange, paring its weekly gain to four per cent. Trading volumes were low as the U.S. took a day off ahead of the July 4 holiday.

The global benchmark crude’s three-month timespread remained in contango — where prompt contracts are cheaper than later-dated ones — but the spread has narrowed in recent days, indicating that concerns about oversupply have eased slightly.

The decline in U.S. oil production continued as working rigs fell for a 16th week to the least since 2009, according to Baker Hughes data released Thursday. Exxon Mobil Corp., meanwhile, reported an unprecedented second straight quarterly loss as almost every facet of the energy giant’s business slumped.

Other oil-market news

-India’s oil market is showing an uneven recovery two months after easing virus-control measures. Provisional fuel sales from the three biggest retailers were at 88 per cent of 2019 levels in June.

-The oil market is “currently perhaps too optimistic” as COVID-19 cases haven’t peaked yet and there’s still a large inventory overhang, FGE said in a note. Prices could fall to US$35 a barrel in the near-term before recovering in the fourth quarter.

-Angola is under intense pressure from other OPEC+ members to speed up its oil output cuts, and the response from the African nation has so far failed to appease the group.

-Several crude cargoes floating near China have been re-offered or sold to other buyers in Asia as long lines of oil-laden tankers continue to wait for their turn to discharge in Asia’s top importing nation, said traders who asked not to be identified.

–With assistance from James Thornhill.

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