Court date set in Baytex fumes case by Sheila Pratt, January 15, 2014, Edmonton Journal
A group of Peace River-area families hoping to temporarily shut down an oilsands operation until fumes are dealt with will head to court in March. On Wednesday, a judge in Peace River allowed the unprecedented case to go ahead and set March 19 as the date for the Labrecque families to seek an injunction against Calgary-based Baytex Energy, said their lawyer Keith Wilson. The families, forced out of their homes by fumes that caused them serious health problems, want operations suspended at the company’s Reno site until new equipment is installed on huge storage tanks to capture vapours produced when the bitumen is heated.
The families will argue the Baytex operation is “unreasonably” interfering with their use and enjoyment of their property, said Wilson. Generally, the Alberta Energy Regulator is the authority that can order a company to shut down operations if there is an environmental or operational issue. But this case confirms that the courts also have a place in handling relations between oil companies and citizens, said Wilson. Also, the regulator says it does not have the legal authority to order a shutdown in the Baytex case, as there is a gap in the regulations, noted Wilson.
The families were hoping for a swift resolution so they can return to the homes, but the two-month wait for the court date is fair and reasonable given the legal briefs that have to be prepared, said Wilson. Baytex spokesman Andrew Loosely said the company is “preparing diligently” for the court battle. “We’re going to respect the process and let it takes it course,” he said. Like other operators in the area, Baytex uses the relatively new cold heavy oil production with sand (CHOPS) process that augers oilsand from the ground and heats it in storage tanks before shipping. Other companies in the area capture the vapours produced with the bitumen is heated, said Wilson. [Emphasis added]
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