May 19 (UPI) -- Alberta's government said a loan program to clean up old oil and natural gas wells would create jobs and help clean up legacy energy operations.
The government in a province at the heart of the Canadian energy sector said it introduced a measure that would extend a $172 million loan arrangement to the Orphan Well Association to facilitate the reclamation of abandoned wells. The government estimates that, if enacted fully, it could create up to 1,650 new jobs.
"This is about creating jobs and fixing a long-standing problem," Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said in a statement. "Albertans are concerned about the growing number of orphaned oil and gas wells, and the landowners directly impacted deserve a government that takes this issue seriously."
Alberta is searching for ways to diversify an economy that depends heavily on oil and natural gas for revenue. At one point last year, the oil-rich province was anticipating an $8 billion deficit and lingering recession because of the downturn in crude oil prices and May wildfires in the Fort McMurray area that idled about 1 million barrels per day worth of regional oil production.
In April, the provincial government unveiled a $3.7 million support program to provide rebates to municipalities that install solar panels on their offices and community centers. By provincial estimates, the rebates in the last year helped those communities save more than a quarter million U.S. dollars on energy bills and helps support broader goals for renewable energy.
Provincial Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd said the loan program for abandoned wells adds to existing environmental initiatives.
"By enabling this work to happen right away, we're able to reduce the backlog of orphan wells throughout Alberta while maintaining our polluter-pay principle," she said.