Terry Crush farms 9 quarter sections at Lone Rock, Saskatchewan, in the Llyodminster heavy oil region of the province. Since 1968 there have been 39 wells on his land and one satellite battery. In nearly 50 years of oil production, Terry reports that there have been 137 spills of salt water and oil from the producing wells and battery, six of these were major spills that caused permanent damage to his land.
On one occasion a two-inch pipeline spilled from 5pm to 9:30am the next morning, the water running across a half-section and into his slough. According to Saskatchewan regulators, salinated water accounts for up to 90% of the product that is extracted from deep formations when producing oil. It impedes vegetative growth and damages soil; therefore, Terry’s soil and crops have been significantly damaged by the long-lasting effects of spilt water and leaking storage tanks.
Terry is also the acting president of the Saskatchewan Surface Rights Organization, an organization that was formed after World War Two to advocate for farmers and ranchers who own only the surface rights to their lands, and therefore have no recourse to stop oil companies from drilling and accessing leased oil and gas rights below farmers’ land. Many farmers in the province find themselves in this position, since more than 75% of the oil and gas rights are owned by the crown that sells them for exploitation to oil companies. Many Saskatchewan farmers and ranchers have become unwilling hosts to the oil and gas industry.
Terry has appeared for himself and others over 40 times in front of the Surface Rights Arbitration Board in attempts to obtain compensation for damages from the oil and gas industry. He sees the surface rights legislation as woefully inadequate since farmers don’t have the right to say no to a well, and since compensation is limited by the legislation. He’s also frustrated by what happens when a well reaches the end of its productive life, and believes Saskatchewan needs stronger regulations for site reclamation and clean up.