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Premier commits to addressing unpaid oil, gas taxes

Reeve Angela Aalbers says county administration has been working with oil and gas companies that operate in Mountain View County's boundaries to “significantly reduce our risk to unpaid property taxes, so we currently have limited risk"
MVT oil pump sunset
Red Deer County estimates proposed assessment changes for oil and gas properties could cost the county about $4 million in lost revenue. File photo

MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY - Premier Danielle Smith’s recent pronouncements that she is committed to finding solutions to the pressing problem of unpaid property taxes owed to rural municipalities by oil and gas companies is welcome news, says Mountain View County Reeve Angela Aalbers.

“By Premier Smith committing to addressing the issue of unpaid property taxes owed by oil and gas company so quickly it demonstrates the strength of rural municipalities in getting their voices heard, which is very reassuring,” said Aalbers.

“The county works very hard to lobby and educate our provincial government either directly or through the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) on issues that have significant impact on our ratepayers so this kind of focus on unpaid property taxes is welcomed.”

Representing 69 municipalities, the RMA says more than $250 million in unpaid property taxes is owed to its members by oil and gas companies. As of September 2022, Mountain View County was owed $98,590, including $14,460 in education taxes that would be forwarded to the province.

During her first press conference as premier on Oct. 11, Smith said she is well aware of the issue of unpaid oil and gas property taxes.

“If we can make sure we can develop a program where the companies that get rewarded are the ones who are in compliance with their municipal tax bill and in compliance with their landowner lease bill, then I think that will benefit not only the municipalities who rely on those dollars but also the companies that want to continue drilling,” Smith said.

“I’m motivated to do that and I want to work a little more with the RMA to make that happen.”

Reeve Aalbers says county administration has been working with oil and gas companies that operate in Mountain View County's boundaries to “significantly reduce our risk to unpaid property taxes, so we currently have limited risk.

“However, we know the petroleum industry is very prone to boom and busts, so we will be following Premier Smith’s direction closely on this one with the hopes of better financial protection with respect to oil and gas company property taxes in the future.”

Meanwhile, during her Oct. 11 press conference, Premier Smith said she is also keen to address oilpatch reclamation issues in the province.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in the last year and a half advocating for a royalty credit program on well site clean up,” Smith said. “We have an estimated $30 billion unfunded liability on the issue of well site cleanup and we have a new program coming in January that requires a certain percentage of those sites to be cleaned up.

“I think we need to look at some of the worst wells, the flare pits and the others that have been around since the 1960s and develop a process for how we would be able to get those cleaned up. 

“If we can do that and reduce the liability rating on our small and mid-sized producers I think that will allow them to access capital, which will allow them to do more drillings.”

A new pilot project aimed at addressing the reclamation issue may be part of the solution, she said.

“I am highly motivated to see if we can start a pilot project on that program to see if it will help initiate and build on some of the reclamation work that was done through the COVID (pandemic),” she said.

RMA president Paul McLauchlin has called on the provincial government to do more to address the matter of unpaid property taxes owed by oil and gas companies.

“As the oil and gas industry’s fortunes have improved over the past year, both oil and gas companies and the government of Alberta have benefited tremendously,” said McLauchlin. 

“Meanwhile, rural municipalities, which play a critical role in providing access to oil and gas resources are left behind, are still unable to collect the taxes required to fund core infrastructure and operations.

“Not only is this unfair to municipalities, it is unfair to every rural taxpayer who must pay more or receive fewer services to offset those taxes not being paid by the oil and gas industry.”

Since 2017 Mountain View County has written off $1.5 million in taxes and penalties that were uncollectible from the oil and gas sector, primarily due to insolvency and bankruptcy situations, say officials.

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