Alberta Tories accused of burying water issues by Darcy Henton, January 11, 2013, Calgary Herald
Alberta Environment is set to launch a public consultation on water issues in 20 communities, but critics say a leaked government document suggests the process is shaping up to be a million-dollar sham. Public Interest Alberta said Thursday the water strategy document, obtained from an undisclosed source, shows the Alberta government is steering the consultation away from controversial issues and limiting discussion at the three-hour consultation meetings to 30 minutes.
“This is just fulfilling Alison Redford’s promise to consult on water, but really at the end of the day the major decisions will be made behind closed doors by people with vested interests,” said Public Interest Alberta (PIA) executive director Bill Moore-Kilgannon. He said the planning document states that controversial issues like selling water to the U.S. or changing the century-old system of allocating water rights on a ‘first in time, first in right basis’ are “off the table.” “It’s just a public relations exercise,” said Moore Kilgannon. “They can put a tick in the box at the end of the day and say they consulted Albertans, but they’re not actually going to let them talk about policy.” Public Interest Alberta fears the governing Tories are set to establish a provincial water market to sell water licences, he said.
But a senior Environment Department official said Thursday that Albertans can talk about whatever they want during the meetings or advise the government of their views through other forums that will be available during the consultation. Shannon Flint, an assistant deputy minister of policy in Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, said that just because the department has decided not to consult Albertans on the first in time, first in right water allocation system “doesn’t mean people can’t bring that up.” “If that’s what is bugging them, we’re happy to hear what they have to say about that,” she said. Flint said Albertans can raise the issue about setting a price for water, but the province hasn’t yet made any policy decisions on the issue. She rejected criticism the consultation is merely a PR exercise. … Alberta Wilderness Association conservation specialist Carolyn Campbell said that rather than encouraging discussion on important issues, the government appears to want to muffle the debate. Leaving out a discussion of how water is allocated in the future is a mistake, she said. “That really is an urgent and overdue issue,”….
The consultation was promised by Redford during her Tory party leadership bid and during last spring’s election campaign. The four “priority” topics for discussion, according to the strategy document, are the “appropriate” use of water in hydraulic fracturing in the oilpatch, ensuring efficient and effective water management, maintaining sustainable drinking water and wastewater systems and maintaining healthy lakes. An attached briefing note says current challenges include the uncertainty around the availability of water licences for growing communities, the availability of water for oilsands development, the increasing amounts of water being used to produce unconventional oil and gas….
The public meetings are expected to begin in late February and end before farmers begin spring seeding, Flint said. She said it is unlikely the government will be in a position to introduce water legislation in the fall sitting of the legislature. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to: The Great Getaway: Secrets of a Frac Cover-Up
Oil Sands Industry in Canada Tied to Higher Carcinogen Level The New York Times, January 7, 2013 The development of Alberta’s oil sands has increased levels of cancer-causing compounds in surrounding lakes well beyond natural levels, Canadian researchers reported in a study released on Monday. And they said the contamination covered a wider area than had previously been believed.
How Often Do Fracked Wells Leak? When industry says hardly ever, that’s a myth. It’s a documented, chronic problem Part Three in a series by Andrew Nikiforuk, January 9, 2013
Hydraulic fracturing with gelled propane by Gasfrac/Crew Energy Inc./Caltex Energy Inc. contaminated groundwater near Grande Prairie: ERCB Investigative Report and groundwater monitoring by Alberta Environment
Fluid Migration mechanisms due to faulty well design and / or construction: An overview and recent experiences in the Pennsylvania Marcellus Play by Anthony R. Ingraffea, Ph.D, P.E., October 2012
Fingerprinting of gas contaminating groundwater and soil in a petroliferous region, Alberta, Canada by Barb Tilley and Karlis Muehlenbachs, Proceedings from International Network of Environmental Forensics conference, Cambridge, UK, July 25-27, 2011
Source and Migration Pathways of Natural Gas in Near-Surface Ground Water Beneath the Animas River Valley, Colorado and New Mexico by Chafin, Daniel, T. 1994, USGS Water Resources Investigations Report 94-4006
Man made migration pathways probably introduced most near surface gas to the study area … Gas well annuli are more important than natural fractures for the upward migration of gas ]