Indigenous companies signing up to get piece of billion dollar clean up fund

Indigenous companies in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia are starting to sign up to get a piece of a $1.7 billion fund to help clean up “orphaned wells” in those oil producing provinces.

“There are 140,000 (orphaned wells) that are inactive right now,” says Sandy Jackson of Pimee Well Servicing, a company that provides oil rigs and servicing in the oil and gas sector.

“There’s a need to be able to make that investment to clean them up. It’s only right to deal with any environmental concerns. And I think for a company like ours that it’s going to be an opportunity.”

Pimee Well Servicing has been in business since 1984 and is owned by six First Nation bands in Alberta.

They’re one of 20,000 applications for the billion dollar fund.

“With this program, for those wells that are inactive, we will have an opportunity to participate in that and take care of that part of business. And it’s going to take our service rigs. I think we are going to take on this opportunity to be able to enhance and benefit the company, and be able to create jobs for our people,” he says.

According to Jackson, 97 per cent of the company’s workforce is Indigenous.

The money was announced April 17 by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as part of a larger $4.2 billion package for companies struggling during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

Trudeau said at the time, the government expects all the spending to maintain 10,000 jobs across the country in the oil sector as it faces plummeting prices from decreased demand and a glut of global supply from a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

“Certain industries are facing even more difficult times,” Trudeau said.

“The oil and gas sector, because of the global price war, because of the lowered demand related to COVID and because of the measures brought in to counter COVID itself, those families are particularly hard-hit.”

The fund for the Alberta clean up is just a fraction of what the province estimates will be a $20 to $30 billion project.

Video Journalist / Edmonton

Chris Stewart has been in the media for 20 years. He has worked at CBC, Global and CTV as a news camera operator and editor. Chris joined APTN in 2012 in the Saskatoon Bureau and moved to APTN Edmonton bureau in 2015 as a Videojournalist.