Proposed drilling in Lethbridge carries too many risks

By Letter to the Editor on January 6, 2014.

I am writing express my deep concern about urban drilling by Goldenkey within the city of Lethbridge. Although I am currently completing my neurology residency training at the University of Calgary, I grew up in Lethbridge and hope to return as I have friends and family in the community.

I would like to emphasize that we do not have enough research evidence to understand the long-term health consequences of hydraulic fracturing and gas flaring in urban areas. Without evidence that urban drilling is safe, we should not risk the health of our citizens. One of the proposed wells is less than a kilometre away from an elementary school, and could potentially put our children at risk – a position held by both local school boards.

I support resource development in general and I am pleased with the PC government’s efforts to lobby for energy projects that will ultimately help pay for our cherished social programs, including universal health care. I understand that exporting Alberta’s oil wealth is important to maintain our health-care system.

But there could also be significant health costs of urban drilling. I do not believe that there should be drilling in urban areas, close to schools, and uphill from the city’s water supply. Nor do I think that dangerous toxins should be trucked through residential neighbourhoods. In addition to health and safety risks, urban drilling will also have negative impact on property values and the future development.

Because the City of Lethbridge has no control over urban drilling, I would urge all concerned citizens to write letters to their MLAs to encourage them to put more pressure on the provincial government to intervene. In addition, letters should be sent to Health Minister Fred Horne and Premier Redford. The only chance to prevent urban drilling in Lethbridge is to pressure the province to buy the energy rights back from Goldenkey. Once the wells are in place it will be too late.

We also need to advocate for municipalities (and their citizens) to have direct control over whether they allow urban drilling within their corporate limits. Citizens should have input into decisions that directly affect their health and wellbeing. We should not be beholden to the AER, which has the appearance of being a puppet of the oil industry, and is certainly not directly accountable to the people.

Dr. Tyson B. Brust

PGY4 Neurology Resident

University of Calgary