Chamber adds voice to drilling opposition

By Mabell, Dave on February 27, 2014.

Dave Mabell


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There’s new opposition to a Calgary company’s plans to drill for oil in Lethbridge. The Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce has taken a stand against Goldenkey Oil’s bid to drill exploratory wells near new housing developments on the city’s westside.

In a statement released Wednesday the business organization is calling on the Conservative government to order a moratorium on all resource drilling inside urban centres.

If the government allows Goldenkey to proceed, it warns, it will have “a profound negative economic impact on the community as a whole.”

“Resource development in urban areas will result in significant negative economic and community impact,” the chamber’s board of directors warns.

The safety setbacks required in drilling zones will leave land in those areas “sterilized for urbanization purposes,” it adds.

The declaration of opposition, released by chamber president Bruce Galts, came after debate at the organization’s board of directors meeting. It also cited health and safety concerns, hazardous products trucking and adverse impacts on real estate values in its detailed statement.

“The health and safety of people in neighbouring areas of drilling activity are a top consideration of the chamber and the community,” it says. “Fact-based review of the potential risks and mitigating measures must be up for public review when drilling within a city boundary.”

Disruption of the city’s development plans and real estate market are key considerations as well, it suggests. When wells are drilled, the chamber says land will be needed for storage facilities, pipelines and safety setbacks.

“This will significantly impact the planning of future roads, homes, schools and commercial property,” it points out.

“The financial impacts to landowners and the city will be significant and should be one of the primary considerations in the approval process.”

Large areas of west Lethbridge could be isolated by the oil industry, the chamber says. Longterm plans for such projects as the Chinook Trail and other arterial roadways would also be disrupted, along with plans for new watermains, storm and sanitary sewer systems.

If Goldenkey’s first three exploratory wells are deemed successful, chamber members say, the company will likely apply for permits to drill more. That could leave large areas of west Lethbridge, the city’s fastest-growing area, “unavailable for urbanization.”

If any drilling plans are approved, the organization says a disaster response plan must be ready before any work begins. The company and the city should also have an agreement on access routes and their costs of maintenance, it adds.

City council, the real estate industry and the city’s public and Catholic school boards have also voiced strong opposition to the Goldenkey proposals.