Skip to content

Surface Rights Board hears local case

Cromer area land owner Carlyle Jorgensen took Tundra Oil & Gas Partnership to task at a Surface Rights Board hearing in an attempt to be compensated for costs incurred for working around oil equipment on his land.
Tundra Oil

Cromer area land owner Carlyle Jorgensen took Tundra Oil & Gas Partnership to task at a Surface Rights Board hearing in an attempt to be compensated for costs incurred for working around oil equipment on his land. In a presentation that lasted two days at the Virden Lions Hall in early May, Jorgenson explained that he feels the compensation for surface rights, being presented to land owners by oil companies, is unfair.

The four-person panel that makes up the Surface Rights Board “is a quasijudicial board established under The Surface Rights Act. The primary function of the board is to arbitrate disputes relating to right of entry or compensation for surface rights used by holders of oil and gas rights,” according to a provincial spokesperson.

“The board also provides mediation services between surface owners, occupants and oil and gas rights holders, on a voluntary basis. The board is an independent, impartial body responsible
for hearing all sides and, from the evidence, making decisions within the framework of The Act.”

When an operator, land owner, or occupant has an issue, they can apply to the board to determine if their dispute falls under the board’s jurisdiction. In the case of Jorgensen, the case was heard under the compensation for surface rights, and moved forward.

A number of claims have been presented to the board in the past few years including six in 2011 and five in 2012. That number jumped to 42 in 2013 and 33 in 2014, primarily due to
orders related to proposed pipeline projects.

When a claim is brought to the board, a mutually convenient time for the parties is set and the case is presented from both sides.

While the board spokesperson could not give specifics on this particular case, every effort is made to “render a decision on an application within 30 days of completion of the hearing.”
“Currently, we are awaiting the board’s decision,” said the provincial spokesperson.

Neither Mr. Jorgensen nor Tundra officials would discuss the case while it was ongoing. However, Scott Andrew, President of the Manitoba Surface Rights Association, was familiar with
the case and was in attendance at the first day of the hearing.

“I think Carlyle did a good job of presenting information to the board that they haven’t seen before,” said Andrew. Jorgensen outlined the costs landowners face when working around oil
equipment that has been set up on their property.

In addition, Jorgensen presented information on a hearing held in Alberta which was appealed to the Court of Queen’s Bench in the province and upheld.
“The problem in Manitoba is that we can’t get to the Queen’s Bench and present our cases to a real judge,” said Andrew. According to Andrew, the Saskatchewan legislation was last reviewed
in 1978 and in the mid- 1980s in Manitoba. He said a number of things have changed since then and it is time for the legislation concerning surface rights to be reviewed and made current.

Recent changes to the Surface Rights Board itself have been positive according to Andrew, who said his group has been asking to have a lawyer on the board for a number of years.
“There is a lawyer on the board now which is a welcome change,” he said. “The board is substantially a new board, with two members being brand new and two others who are fairly new.

It would also be nice to have a landowner who has worked around the equipment on that board as well.” Changes made to the board have been welcomed by the group and Andrew feels these are a
step in the right direction.

“We are encouraged by the government’s commitment to bolster the board,” he said. “The previous board was a bit behind on some decisions but with the new board they are trying to get caught up and be current.”

On the surface, this hearing may look like one landowner’s fight but Andrew said that’s not the case “This is a test case for many, many land owners. He’s got a lot of support,” he said, adding that members of the Saskatchewan Association were also in attendance at the hearing and are awaiting the decision to see how it will affect issues in the neighbouring province.

“I believe the right board can do a lot,” he said. The Surface Rights Board is expected to make a decision in the Jorgensen case by the middle of June.

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks