Silence isn’t golden, says local anti-drilling group by Delon Shurtz, December 21, 2013, Lethbridge Herald
Even though Lethbridge West MLA Bridget Pastoor has already voiced her opposition to oil and gas drilling in Lethbridge, a Lethbridge group isn’t convinced her heart is really in it. Trevor Page, communications director for KLEW, Kainai Lethbridge Earth Watch, says the group is concerned about Pastoor’s silence on the issue, especially since KLEW has asked her and Lethbridge West MLA Greg Weadick to share the public’s concerns with government and the Alberta Energy Regulator. KLEW challenged the MLAs during a rally in October and asked them to keep the group apprised of their progress. Two months later, however, the group still hasn’t heard anything.
KLEW met with Pastoor again Friday in her constituency office and asked for an accounting, but didn’t get one, Page said. “Two months have passed, what have you done?” Page asked her. “She just ignored the question,” he told The Herald later. Calls to the MLA by The Herald were not immediately returned. Although Weadick was unavailable to talk to the group Friday when it visited his Lethbridge office, he said in a subsequent interview he had spoken to other MLAs and former minister of energy Ken Hughes, and was planning to meet with Energy Minister Diana McQueen, who was sworn in Dec. 13. “I will sit down with her, as well,” Weadick said. He said he is opposed to oil and gas drilling in Lethbridge because of the impact it would have on existing schools and homes, and future residential development on the westside. But while Weadick has voiced his opposition to drilling, Page suggests he may not be adamantly opposed. Page said Weadick has also conceded that drilling may proceed anyway, in which case he said he only hopes it’s done as safely as possible. Page is, however, pleased to learn Weadick has spoken to other MLAs and the former energy minister and is hopeful he will continue to support his constituents on the issue.
Pastoor’s silence, on the other hand, concerns him. A couple of days following October’s rally in Galt Gardens, Page delivered letters to the MLAs’ offices. Weadick received his letter, but Pastoor said she new nothing about it. “Bridget feigned ignorance of getting a subsequent letter,” Page says. The city is opposed to drilling within city limits, as well, and has expressed concerns over leaching of chemicals into the environment and water system. And while many people consider it a long shot, other municipalities, including Calgary, have been successful at banning fracking.
Goldenkey Oil has secured the mineral rights for their proposed drilling project in Lethbridge and has conducted community consultations. If approval is granted by the Alberta Energy Regulator – which is funded by the oil and gas industry – drilling could begin in early 2014. [Emphasis added]
Holy Spirit to write statement of concern over drilling by Caroline Zentner, December 21, 2013, Lethbridge Herald
Concerns from parents prompted trustees in the Holy Spirit Catholic school division to write a statement of concern to the Alberta Energy Regulator about the Penny Project. “We discussed it at the meeting and the main concern we have is our students and how they will be affected by this,” said Terry O’Donnell, chairman. “We’re looking at it.” The discussion was a preliminary one and O’Donnell said trustees will gather information and further explore the ramifications of drilling within city limits. The board has put the item on its January meeting agenda. “In fact we might even meet earlier to discuss it a little bit. We’re kind of looking at what Lethbridge 51 has done and the city. We want to stay in line with them,” he said. A letter has been sent home to parents in west Lethbridge informing them of the board’s decision. Goldenkey Oil’s Penny Project would see the drilling of three wells in two sites in west Lethbridge, one near Sunridge and one near Copperwood. [Emphasis added]
School board in Lethbridge wants stakeholder status by Caroline Zentner, December 20, 2013, Lethbridge Herald
A day after two teachers voiced concerns about proposed drilling near schools and homes in west Lethbridge at a board meeting, trustees acted to ensure their participation in the process. Two trustees of the Lethbridge public school division board, Keith Fowler and Donna Hunt, have declared conflicts of interest. “They cannot be a part of any discussions and decisions,” said Mich Forster, board chairman.
Goldenkey Oil has indicated it plans to apply to the Alberta Energy Regulator in early 2014, possibly before trustees had the opportunity to throughly discuss the Goldenkey project. “We did an informal vote of all of our trustees just to take care of this first initial step to make sure that we had filed the necessary papers to allow us to participate in any hearings that might be coming,” Forster said. At Tuesday’s meeting, Forster said the board planned to discuss the issue at its January board meeting. “We wanted to set ourselves up so that we would not be left out and that’s all we’ve done,” Forster said. “We haven’t taken a formal position on this. We are going forward to express concerns.”
Laurie Chinn, one of the teachers who appeared before the board, was pleased with the development. “I am so thrilled that they have taken this position. Posting the links on their website will help many parents get informed on this issue. We would like to send a thank you to (superintendent) Cheryl Gilmore and the board of trustees for their urgency on this matter,” she said in an email. The board will submit two documents to the Alberta Energy Regulator – a statement of concern and a request for stakeholder status. “Our first impression is there’s some risk with drilling and, supporting the city position, they have concerns as well,” Forster said. “I think it’s safe to say that we do have opposition just in principle to oil wells being close to schools and close to the homes of our families but we have not taken a formal position. That’s still on our agenda for our January 28 meeting.” Forster said trustees are studying the issue and looking at both sides of Goldenkey’s proposal. Goldenkey wants to drill three exploratory wells in two locations. In addition to a package of information from Goldenkey, trustees have heard from a community association in west Lethbridge, school councils and parents. All have expressed opposition to the project. [Emphasis added]
School district opposes proposed oil-drilling project in west Lethbridge by Lethbridge Herald, December 19, 2013
The Lethbridge School District No.51 board of trustees will be opposing the proposed oil-drilling project in west Lethbridge. A decision to oppose the project follows the presentation of concerned community members during the public forum at the board’s meeting on Tuesday. “The board reached consensus that initial steps will be taken to develop a position to oppose Goldenkey’s Penny Project,” said Mich Forster, board chair, in a statement released Wednesday night. “The board does not want the proposed wells located within city limits, and especially as close to our schools as these drilling sites will be.” The board will submit a Statement of Concern with the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) and a request of Stakeholder Status prior to the New Year in order to present the concerns of Lethbridge School District No. 51 to the AER in 2014. Initially, the board planned to review the information and make a decision regarding the Penny Project during the board’s Jan. 28 meeting. However, the board came to the decision Wednesday, based on the timeline to submit documents to the AER before January, 2014. “We did indicate we would hold a special public meeting early in the New Year if our January meeting would be too late in the process,” said Forster. “The board decided to act now to ensure the concerns of our school communities are voiced.”
Oil Drilling in West Lethbridge by Lethbridge School District No. 51
During the public forum of the December 17, 2013 Board meeting, a presentation by concerned citizens outlined issues pertaining to the potential development of two oil wells in West Lethbridge. The information presented to the Board is available below.
Fracking fears by Caroline Zentner, December 16, 2013, Lethbridge Herald
The co-organizers of Monday night’s meeting regarding fracking within city limits hoped to increase awareness and get people involved in opposing Goldenkey Oil’s plans to drill in West Lethbridge. Dave McCaffrey, of the Lethbridge Public Interest Research Group, and Laurie Chinn, a parent and kindergarten teacher on the city’s westside, set up the meeting at Nicholas Sheran school to inform people about Goldenkey’s proposal and what citizens can do. “This meeting is about maintaining momentum in the city’s opposition to fracking in Lethbridge,” McCaffrey said. In addition to a petition being circulated, a letter-writing campaign has been started and fundraising has begun. Other groups are also involved, including SAGE (Southern Alberta Group for the Environment) and KLEW, Kainai Lethbridge Earth Watch. Their concerns are numerous, including human health and safety and harm to the environment. “We know that they have three exploratory wells planned and that if those wells strike that we could see more wells in the region. This is of grave concern to us because these are sour wells which means there will be hydrogen sulfide captured on site, which means that that hydrogen sulfide needs to be transferred on dangerous goods routes on the westside. That means truckfuls of very hazardous chemicals on Whoop-Up Drive, on University Drive, past schools, past churches. This should be a concern for everyone in Lethbridge,” McCaffrey said. He added the group has been getting support from oil and gas workers living on the westside who are familiar with such sites and don’t want them near their residences. “We’re also very concerned about property values. There’s a report out of the U of A (University of Alberta) that says that urban property within four kilometres of a well drops anywhere between four and 16 per cent in property value. That really encompasses most of West Lethbridge,” McCaffrey said.
Chinn started educating herself about fracking and the more she learned the more concerned she became. “The more research I did regarding the fracking the more I realized it’s the health issues and the environment issues that are associated with that but my biggest concern as a parent and as an educator is proximity and being within the city limits,” she said. As an educator her job is to keep children in school safe. Having wells drilled within city limits, including schools and residences is too close for comfort. Schools already practise fire drills and lock down drills and Chinn said she doesn’t think evacuation drills should be added to the list. “If they’re able to drill and frack that close to schools and communities within Alberta I worry that that will set a precedent,” Chinn said. “It’s not just a westside issue. It’s not even a Lethbridge issue. If they are able to come within our city limits on the westside, nothing’s stopping another company from going out near Costco or Walmart north.” … Other municipalities have been successful at banning fracking, including Calgary and Dallas, Texas and Newfoundland has a moratorium on fracking, he said.
The petition is available online at lpirg.org under the petition tab. McCaffrey said the petition will be submitted to the legislature in the new year. He added the way to stop the drilling proposed for West Lethbridge is by contacting the Alberta Energy Regulator. Letters need to specify the well site numbers and list specific concerns. People also need to continue to pressure MLAs. He also hopes the city continues to oppose the project and push for a public hearing once the application is before the regulator. “We absolutely demand and deserve a public hearing on this matter,” McCaffrey said. [Emphasis added]
NDP raises fracking concerns and supports city’s dispatch by Caroline Zentner, December 14, 2013, Lethbridge Herald
Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason had plenty of criticism for Premier Alison Redford’s Conservative government following meetings in Lethbridge this week. Mason met with Mayor Chris Spearman about ambulance dispatch and fracking within city limits. “Both of those issues the NDP has been standing up and fighting for the people of Lethbridge. We’ve written to the health minister (Fred Horne) asking him to pause and take a second look at centralizing the ambulance dispatch. We think that’s a mistake and we’ve been hearing from all over the province that that’s a problem, including here in Lethbridge,” Mason told reporters Friday. He said Horne is listening to his bureaucrats and the NDP is concerned that centralized dispatch will not serve cities like Lethbridge or rural areas surrounding them. “We’ve seen dramatic reductions in response times outside of Edmonton and Calgary as a result of ambulance consolidation so far and this step with the dispatch centralization is just going to make it worse,” Mason said. “You don’t know with this government why they don’t listen to the public but they don’t.”
He said Bill 45 and Bill 46 are prime examples. The government curtailed debate and forced the bills through despite plenty of public opposition. The bills affect close to 30,000 public employees, freezing their wages and removing the right to arbitration and imposing fines for strike threats. He said the bill also warns the United Nurses of Alberta and the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, with a combined total of more than 40,000 members, they could face the same situation if they don’t negotiate a deal with government. “I think the government is opening the door to a period of significant labour unrest in Alberta,” he said. “People are getting pretty fed up with being dictated to by their government instead of listened to.”
Mason also pointed a finger at the two Lethbridge MLAs, Greg Weadick and Bridget Pastoor, on the fracking issue. “I think it’s essential that those MLAs not just give lip service to the fracking but actually produce results for the people of Lethbridge and for the council that has come out clearly against fracking within the city limits of Lethbridge. I don’t think the PC MLAs are doing nearly enough to stand up against that,” he said. He said Weadick and Pastoor may show up at a rally and say a few nice things but they fall short on taking direct action. “If the provincial government steps in it can be stopped. We have two government MLAs representing Lethbridge and they are not getting the government to do that,” Mason said. Fracking so close to residential areas, schools and the Oldman River isn’t appropriate, Mason said. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
B.C. school kids in danger, can suffer DNA damage illness from leaking sour gas several km away, yet B.C. allows wells within 100 m (~330 feet) of schools while Dallas City Council votes in 1,500 foot setback from homes!
Kaiser kills Calgary Royal Oak drill and frac for oil 400 metres from homes, Residents in Calgary community celebrate after Kaiser Energy scrapped urban frac plans but worry 2,300 metres is not far enough
More on the Hawkwoods and other Albertans harmed by hydraulic fracturing:
October 19, 2013: Howard Hawkwood and one of his dead cows on his ranch in the Lochend, Rocky View County, Alberta.