Lethbridge County adds voice to concerns over urban drilling

By Simmons, Garrett on March 10, 2014.

Stan Ashbee

southern alberta newspapers

There’s oil in them there hills – foothills that is. Considered black gold by some. Oil and gas exploration has been at the forefront in Lethbridge and surrounding area over the past few years. Whether it’s good or bad for municipalities will continue to be debated.

At a Lethbridge County council meeting Thursday, a motion was passed that Lethbridge County council send a letter to Robin Campbell, Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development minister, that recognizes the value the oil and gas industry adds to Alberta and also encourages legislative changes that will give local governments in Alberta a stronger voice on resource extraction matters in areas that impact municipalities. Deputy Reeve Henry Doeve opposed the motion.

“I don’t want to be drawn into the City of Lethbridge’s issues. They’re making an issue out of something that is not an issue,” said Doeve. “There’s pretty good stop gaps in place now. They can’t drill in the middle of my house now,” he added.

A recommendation was made after a letter from City of Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman was submitted to county council asking whether county council would consider passing a resolution expressing concern about the absence of municipal authority respecting resource drilling within municipal boundaries.

“I think we could have some say in it. I mean it has nothing to do with the Lethbridge issue but potentially they could want to drill next to a hamlet or on a road where it absolutely won’t handle truck traffic. Next thing you know they’ve got 50 trucks a day on some of these roads,” noted Coun. Steve Campbell.

In a recommendation to council from Larry Randle, director of community services, Lethbridge County recognizes the benefits of natural resource extraction and values the oil and gas industry and all the benefits it brings to Alberta. The information submitted also stated having a stronger voice in local area resource extraction would provide the county and other local governments with an enhanced ability to plan for the future.

“We have lots of rules and regulations in place already,” said Coun. Morris Zeinstra.

Lethbridge County Reeve Lorne Hickey added if oil exploration ends up next to hamlets or residential areas it would be beneficial to have a clearer understanding of the development and also a small say in how it occurs.

“Could it be up wind or down wind or how could we do this differently to accommodate the people that live there?” said Hickey, adding while not sacrificing any of the economy.

Doeve asked council if there is indeed a problem. “There’s lots of oil and gas exploration going on all over the place,” he said, adding because of procedures already in place it’s not a problem.

Doeve added he hasn’t heard of any problems in the hamlets within the area and there are currently many safety measures in place.