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Ontario to launch strategy to identify and plug abandoned oil and gas wells

Ontario Premier Doug Ford holds a sign of support for the town of Wheatley in Southern Ontario, that is dealing with the aftermath of an explosion during a press conference at Queen's Park in Toronto, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Ontario is investing millions of dollars on a provincewide strategy to identify and plug abandoned oil and gas wells.

It is also giving $2.5 million to Chatham-Kent as the municipality continues to deal with the fallout from a 2021 explosion that levelled a building and injured 20 people.

Natural Resources Minister Graydon Smith says the province will spend $23.6 million on an "action plan" to address risks of old wells.

That includes plans to double funding to $6 million for an existing program that plugs old oil and gas wells.

Local officials declared two states of emergency and evacuation orders in Wheatley, Ont., in June and July of 2021 after discovering hydrogen sulphide gas leaks in the area.

The blast in late August 2021 crushed a privately owned former pub. 

"This investment represents the first step in our government’s action plan to address the challenges and risks old oil and gas wells pose to communities across Ontario," Smith wrote in a statement. 

"With this funding, Chatham-Kent and other affected municipalities will be able to help keep their communities safe and prevent petroleum-related emergencies in the future."

The province said it has invested more than $25 million to "support the investigation, recovery and monitoring activities in Chatham-Kent, as well as support for eligible businesses and residents who were evacuated from their homes."

Late last year, a group of residents and businesses in Wheatley filed a $100-million proposed class action lawsuit over the explosion.

They alleged negligence on the part of the municipality and a company hired to find the source of a gas leak that led to the blast.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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