Illicit business practices originating in the early 1990s have earned two Alberta oilmen a ban from the oil and gas industry. Marc Dame and Murray Craig are forbidden from senior level employment or any kind of direct or indirect control in a petroleum company until 2019 and 2016, respectively.
The Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) released its report on December 20. It found that from 1996, oil companies managed by Dame and Craig failed to comply with 85 government orders to leave multiple wells that they didn’t have mineral leases for. Two active wells were found not to have had mining rights since 1992.
Instead of closing the wells, the men created a new company, Maxim, and transferred control of the wells to it, while allowing the original company, Legacy Oil, to fall into bankruptcy. In 1999 and 2008 Maxim was struck from the Alberta Corporate Registry for failing to file annual returns.
Ultimately, the wells were abandoned without fulfilling the site reclamation requirements the companies were responsible for. That means Alberta and the rest of the petroleum industry will foot the bill for cleaning up Legacy’s well sites through the Orphan Well Association.
“Many millions of dollars in costs have devolved to the orphan well fund for abandonment and reclamation work, and until that reclamation work is completed, the province will continue to incur costs for surface rental payments,” states the ERCB report on Dame and Craig. The Orphan Well Association reports it is currently working to clean up 388 wells that oil companies have simply walked away from.
Darin Barter of the ERCB says “if either men do work for an oil company before their bans are up, the ERCB would turn down any application the company made to extract oil in the province. Barter also says the industry ban is relatively rare, occurring five times in as many years. Dame and Craig can return after their suspensions expire, but that is not always the case.
“In some other cases we’ve just not allowed people to come back into the industry at all,” he says.