Should U of L take a stand on drilling issue? by Caroline Zentner, February 28, 2014, Lethbridge Herald
The University of Lethbridge board of governors will form a working committee to develop a framework for analyzing the issue of urban drilling and its potential affects on the university. At Thursday’s board meeting, President Mike Mahon said the U of L has received 119 signatures from members of the university community who have said the U of L should take a position, with a strong suggestion that the position be one of opposition.
Chairman Gord Jong encouraged a robust discussion and opinions on the topic certainly varied. “I don’t think this is a subject the board of governors should take a position on,” said board member Ron Scrimshaw, adding he would encourage all staff and faculty to take positions on the issue but the U of L is a public institution that receives provincial funds.
Richard Masson said he has a background in energy and he’s not sure people understand the approval process, either because of misinformation or lack of information. He said Alberta is a leader in fracking and the province has one of the best regulators in the world. “We have a high level of safety so I would urge us to think a little bit about what we do know about the process and where we’re at in it, what things do we think we could do that are constructive. Do we have real evidence, facts to provide?” Masson said.
Shuna Talbot, president of the U of L Students’ Union, said she agreed with Scrimshaw about not taking a position. As an organization that lobbies the provincial government on behalf of students, the ULSU made a conscious choice not to take a formal position. Fahid Naeem, president of the Graduate Students’ Association, said his group also has chosen not to take a stand on the issue at this time and is seeking more information. The U of L Faculty Association also has not taken a formal stand.
Another board member, Andrea Amelinckx, said the issue should be considered with respect to its possible effects on how the university is marketed and student recruitment and retention. James Berezan said his concern was whether the board has done enough discussion in the university community to come out with a statement on behalf of the university.
Masson suggested a small working group be formed to develop better understanding about the process and what the implications are.
“I certainly agree with the point that, as a university, having facts and science behind our stance is the way to be. I’ll have it noted that I’m strongly opposed to financial reasons being the reason we choose not to make a statement. We’re a university, we’re not a corporation,” said Jennifer Copeland, a professor and board member, adding students and staff are the top priority.
Mahon said the U of L will be implicated simply because its community will be implicated, including faculty and staff. The U of L’s reputation could also be affected and he suggested those elements need to be understood before the board takes a formal position. The working group is to report back to the board at its March meeting. [Emphasis added]
Richard Masson is CEO of the Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission and brings over 25 years of leadership experience in oil sands development, energy marketing and finance to the role. Richard is leading Alberta’s commercial focus on activities to support the development of new crude oil infrastructure and markets. From 2010 to 2012 Richard was on a secondment from Nexen, and actied as Interim CEO for APMC, focused on bitumen related activities including the Bitumen Royalty in Kind implementation planning and oversight of APMC’s agreement with the North West Redwater Refinery. During the first year of his secondment Richard acted as Executive Advisor for the Oil Sands Strategy and Operations division, and led the industry consultation on the BRIK implementation policy.
Richard’s previous experiences include:
Nexen: VP Risk Management and member of the Marketing Global Leadership Team; Finance Director and member of the Long Lake Management Committee; and prior to that PLanning Manager for the Synthetic Oil Business Unit. Value Creation Group: Diretor of Business Development and Corporate Planning.
Shell: Manager, Planning and Manager, Finance and Evaluation for the Athabasca Oil Sands Project.
Alberta Energy Department: Director of Oil Sands Policy and Development, where he led the development of the generic oil sands royalty system in 1995-96.
Alberta Finance: Senior Analyst, Heritage Fund, where he was involved with the development of the Bi-Provincial Upgrader. [Emphasis added]
Statement on proposed drilling in West Lethbridge Board Chair Gord Jong, February 27, 2014
On February 27, 2014, the Board of Governors of the University of Lethbridge, during the Open Session of its regular meeting, discussed concerns brought forward by a number of faculty and concerned members of our University community regarding GoldenKey Oil’s proposed drilling of three wells in the south west part of west Lethbridge.
Over the next month, a working committee of the Board of Governors will investigate the possible implications of the proposed drilling, the regulatory process and advise and inform the Board on appropriate future actions. The Board will continue to monitor and discuss the situation with our municipal and provincial leadership, learn more of the facts, and continue to place the interests of the University of Lethbridge and its community as our highest priority. We will continue to stay engaged in this issue.
University Administration has been monitoring this issue for potential risks to the University of Lethbridge and the concerns that many members of its community share. These concerns have been articulated by many local groups and organizations and include:
• Future land development
o Well sites and supporting infrastructure could restrict developable land due to safety and operational setbacks, as well as increase costs to develop lands that could be utilized for the development of housing and services for students, faculty and staff.
• Health and safety of residents
o Increased demand on municipal utilities (water and electricity)
o The proposal includes utilizing sections of University Drive (a designated Dangerous Goods Route) and Whoop Up Drive to access the well sites and transport materials produced by and used for the wells. These routes are in close proximity to the University campus, student residences, and other residential and service areas used by students, faculty and staff.
• Decline in property values
o A study conducted at the University of Alberta found that the presence of oil and gas facilities can have significant negative impacts (4% – 16%) on values of neighbouring properties.
• Environmental concerns
o Concerns about possible groundwater contamination
o Concerns about possible odors and air pollution
o Concerns about possible noise pollution due to increased traffic and well-site equipment
• Risk of expansion
o If the 3 proposed exploratory wells are sufficiently productive, Goldenkey Oil may choose to further develop the area.
The Board of the University of Lethbridge acknowledges these concerns and understands they can lead to a greater level of risk to the continued growth and success of the University. President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Mike Mahon has articulated these risks to members of the provincial government. The following outlines why these concerns are of importance to the University of Lethbridge Board of Governors.
1. The safety of our students, faculty and staff is of paramount importance. Our concerns include everything from increased traffic to issues related to drilling in close proximity to residential areas.
2. Seventy per cent of the U of L’s student body comes from outside of the Lethbridge area and the recruitment of leading faculty members is a global competition. The University’s reputation, and our city’s reputation, is critical in ensuring the attraction of students, and top staff and faculty to our institution.
3. The future development of west Lethbridge is key to the future of our University. We share the community concerns that drilling in west Lethbridge has the potential to limit the type of growth that benefits the U of L whether it be additional housing for students, staff and faculty or new services that make west Lethbridge attractive.
Gord Jong, Chair
Board of Governors
The University of Lethbridge
[Refer also to: