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Saskatchewan has idea to get laid-off oil workers cleaning up abandoned wells

Click to play video 'Wall asks for federal money to remediate oil well sites' Wall asks for federal money to remediate oil well sites

REGINA – The Saskatchewan government is proposing to have oil and gas workers who have lost their jobs clean up abandoned wells.

Premier Brad Wall says the program would help stimulate employment in the oil-and-gas sector by accelerating cleanup of wells no longer capable of production.

Wall says it would speed up decommissioning and reclamation of 1,000 non-producing wells over the next two years and generate 1,200 jobs.

Work would include safe removal and disposal of old equipment, remediation of any spills and revegetation of the land.

READ MORE: When the oil stops: 16×9 takes a closer look at old wells in Canada

It is the responsibility of oil companies to clean up decommissioned or abandoned well sites. However, if companies go bankrupt before this takes place, the province inherits responsibility of these “orphan” wells.

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The proposal calls for $156 million in federal funding.

Wall says he has spoken with and written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the idea.

Associate economics professor at the University of Regina Jason Childs is comparing the stimulus to the auto-industry bailout. Childs sees the move a positive for the region, but warned it’s not risk free, and industry may shift their bills to taxpayers.

“So if you know as soon as times get bad the government’s going to step in and engage in stimulus to do this type of thing then you’re going to be less keen to do it yourself,” he explained.

With files from David Baxter