We Have a Reclamation Certificate, But is it Good Enough? Ecological Recovery Monitoring of Oil and Gas Wellsites 2012- 13 Final Report

Anne McIntosh
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There is uncertainty related to the long-term consequences of reconstructing landscapes on Alberta’s
specified lands. Alberta has over 100,000 wellsites that have been certified under evolving reclamation
criteria over the past 50+ years. These wellsites are not currently revisited post-certification to evaluate
their long-term ecological recovery. Ecological recovery is achieved when the biological, physical and
chemical properties (e.g., vegetation community composition, soil properties) of a reclaimed site are
similar to the properties of an undisturbed reference or pre-disturbance site. With the lack of long-term
monitoring of wellsites post-certification in Alberta, there is currently no way of knowing if or when
ecological recovery will be achieved on these reclaimed sites. The absence of this information is a
potential liability that detracts from government’s stewardship commitments, and from industry’s social
license to operate on public lands.

The Ecological Recovery Monitoring (ERM) Project Team was established in November 2012. The
overarching goals of the ERM are to: i) undertake a field study to assess historical wellsites to address key
knowledge gaps that currently constrain the assessment of ecological recovery after reclamation, and ii)
create a scientifically-robust, transparent, and financially-sustainable long-term monitoring program to
assess the ecological recovery of reclaimed wellsites. The initial focus on wellsites will provide a
foundation for future work on other energy sector footprints.