South Peace News
Big Lakes County is urging the provincial energy regulator to push oil and gas companies to pay unpaid taxes.
At its regular meeting Nov. 10, council approved a briefing document to present to the government to show local support.
The briefing comes as the provincial government proposes Bill 77 that would provide more tools to municipalities and government to address unpaid taxes.
“The introduction of Bill 77 is a long-overdue step to help address Big Lakes County’s $18.3 million in unpaid taxes from oil and gas companies,” CAO Jordan Panasiuk says.
The document will be discussed with Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver at the Rural Municipalities of Alberta fall convention Nov. 23-26.
“This is strategic timing to bring forward regulatory tools to address unpaid taxes,” Panasiuk says.
“Bill 77 has been tabled and is set to come into force January 2022.”
The proposed amendments would allow municipalities to place special liens on wells and pipelines with unpaid taxes in their municipal boundaries, a practice that was stopped after a 2019 court of appeal decision raised questions about how the previous legislation was written.
The liens would also cover equipment on the property.
Big Lakes encourages McIver to work with the Alberta Energy Regulator [AER] to further develop and strengthen regulatory enforcement of unpaid municipal taxes, the document states.
“Although Bill 77, liability management framework and AER’s licensee life-cycle management are all steps in the right direction, Big Lakes County is requesting stronger enforcement of unpaid taxes from a regulatory standpoint through AER directives.”
Specifically, Big Lakes requests the Government of Alberta work with the AER to implement several directives to the licensee life-cycle management.
The County recommends the government:
-Designate specific avenues for municipalities to work directly with the AER to ensure ongoing communication and to receive direct information regarding municipal tax payment.
-Incorporate property tax and surface lease payments as Licensee Liability Rating [LLR] factors.
-Include unpaid municipal taxes as a factor in determining a company’s lifecycle capability assessment [LCA].
-Strengthen compliance and enforcement mechanisms for companies that fail to honour their obligations to pay municipal taxes.
The provincial government introduced Bill 77 on Oct. 28.