January 19, 2024
Province of Ontario investing $7.5 million to help communities enhance emergency preparedness
The Ontario government is investing $7.5 million over three years to help keep municipalities safe from the risks associated with old and inactive oil and gas wells. The funding will be used by municipalities to enhance emergency preparedness within their communities and prevent emergencies. This investment is the next step in the province’s $23.6 million action plan to tackle the challenges related to legacy oil and gas wells.
“We heard from municipalities across Southern Ontario that they need help addressing the complex challenges related to inactive oil and gas wells in their communities”, said Graydon Smith, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. “This investment will help municipalities like Norfolk County build capacity through training and the acquisition of equipment, which will increase their understanding of risks and help to mitigate those risks.”
During its first year, the program will provide $2 million in funding to up to nine municipalities to fund activities focused on improving emergency preparedness and risk prevention.
As part of this investment, Norfolk County will be provided $280,000 to purchase gas monitoring and health and safety equipment, provide health and safety training to staff and develop an education campaign for residents.
“Norfolk appreciates the province’s support with this regional matter and the acknowledgement that municipalities need to be equipped to address issues like this that cross multiple municipal boundaries,” said Norfolk County Mayor Amy Martin. “Community safety remains our shared top priority. The funding provided to Norfolk will help us better communicate the dangers associated with abandoned wells and monitor problematic wells.”
In addition to Norfolk County, the following municipalities have been approved for funding in year one:
- Municipality of Chatham-Kent
- Lambton County
- Oxford County
- Brant County
- Elgin County
- Essex County
- Haldimand County
- Regional Municipality of Niagara
The government will continue to work collaboratively with and seek input from partners to ensure future funding remains responsive to municipal needs.
- Ontario has records for approximately 27,000 oil and gas wells, primarily on private land in southwestern Ontario.
- The greatest need for funding is predominantly in rural municipalities in southwestern Ontario where local geology and naturally occurring petroleum resources can pose risks to public health and safety and the environment.
- The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry administers the Abandoned Works Program, which supports the plugging of old and inactive oil and gas wells that are at heightened risk to public safety or the environment by providing financial assistance to eligible landowners. To date, the province has invested $29.5 million to plug 415 wells across Ontario.
“The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC) is pleased to hear that the provincial government is investing $7.5 million over three years to assist nine municipalities with managing risks associated with abandoned gas wells. The dangers of abandoned gas wells, as seen in Chatham-Kent in 2021 are serious, and this investment will assist municipalities with enhancing emergency preparedness and mitigating risks within their communities. The OAFC appreciates the continuing partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and looks forward to working with them to continue finding solutions to this complex, yet important issue.”
– Rob Grimwood
OAFC President, Deputy Chief Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services
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