An article published in the National Post Magazine states

In the last 30 years, exposure to H2S leaks, flares or emissions have killed at least 34 workers in Alberta and British Columbia and disabled hundreds more.

For its part, the Alberta government hasn’t made much effort to protect the health of its citizens. It has refused to fund proper toxicology studies or to set up an H2S registry. Change is in the wind however, as the government has undertaken a study on livestock, recognizing that what they don't know might hurt them. No such study is planned for humans.

Funded largely by industry, the EUB has a mandate to regulate the province’s 1,000 oil and gas companies "in a manner that is fair, responsible and in the public interest". The board generally interprets the public interest as anything that helps sustain government revenue from the oilpatch. The EUB, now largely staffed by oilpatchers, approves 8 to 10 thousand wells a year. It rarely says no to industry.

Elbow Valley Industrial Activity

The collision of industrial, agricultural and recreational interests in Kananaskis shows that a multi-use policy is not working. People and wildlife are being pushed out by heavy equipment and the destruction of these wild lands.

gas

People vs industry - a hot topic
Click this button to see more photos

NOTE: Petro-Canada's test well came up dry in February, 2006. They have put further exploration on hold.

Much of Kananaskis is an industrial development zone. Spray Lakes Sawmills, who manage the forest in Kananaskis, on behalf of the government, have logged the McLean Creek area into a barren wasteland. Shell and Husky have cut roads and installed bridges throughout the Elbow Valley and West Bragg Creek recreation areas to build a pipeline. Flares spew toxic chemicals into the air above the Elbow Valley. Petro-Canada is planning to operate a well in the middle of the West Bragg Creek trails, just metres from trails intended for mountain cycling and cross-country skiing. They maintain there is no risk to the public. But the area contains sour gas. That is gas mixed with hydrogen sulphide. Inhale it twice and you'll be dead. Two people died on the Elbow Valley Road in 2004 when their car was struck by pipes that fell off a pipeline contractors truck. What to do?

This is a kind of David and Goliath story. Here Petro-Canada is David. The many thousands of people who enjoy recreational activities in Alberta's mountain playgrounds are like Goliath. People only need to exercise their options as owners of the public lands contained within Kananaskis. As customers of Petro-Canada, they wield considerable power.

Shell, Husky and Petro-Canada say they use sound environmental management and conservation practices. Maybe, but not in a public playground please.

According to David Orton, in his review of Andrew Nikiforuk's book, hearings into the Sable gas project, in Nova Scotia, reflect what is a well established traditional response in Alberta. It showed that the mountains of company literature presented to environmental assessment panels, all come to an identical conclusion: “no significant adverse environmental or adverse socioeconomic impacts are likely to occur".

There are something like 100 gas wells in the Elbow Valley, 74 kilometres of pipeline and hundreds of kilometres of access roads. The damage done to the wild land that is our legacy for the future is significant. View the photos linked to this page to see graphic evidence of the mess they're making. Then use the "Call to Action" link to express your concern. That will be hard, likely impossible, for many of you who are employed by the industry. We need the industry and the wealth generated from gas and oil, but a public recreation area should be protected from industrial development. Convincing authorities of this will be very difficult - harder still, considering that this concern is as much about the threat posed by H2S gas as it is about the damage done to a wilderness recreation area and the impact that has on your ability to enjoy outdoor activities in Kananaskis. Industry executives, and apparently, the Energy and Utility Board consider these trivial concerns. I've been told that heavy equipment, trucks, pipelines, flares, access roads, wells, gas plants and pumping stations have less impact than the thousands who visit Kananaskis to recreate.

The government is shirking its responsibility as stewards of the land. They need to be held accountable. The litany of stories of ranchers savaged by the industry and the regulators shows that they aren't responding to concerns of citizens. A groundswell of concern from citizens directed at the politicians we elect to represent our interests is the only thing that might effect change. Thousands of letters and names on a petition directed at David Coutts, Gary Mar and Ralph might make a difference.

I'm not holding my breath. I'm merely pointing out what I consider to be a problem and proposing a solution. No more leases should be sold or renewed in Kananaskis, no permits issued and the areas where industrial development is allowed should be protected and reserved for public use. Preservation of the watershed in a natural state is the overriding goal.

More info

Flare-Up!

Article by Andrew Nikiforuk (National Post Business Magazine, October 2002)

If Ralph's a friend, who needs enemies?

Op-Ed piece on the Alberta Deficit by Andrew Nikiforuk. (Published in the Globe and Mail September 28, 2005)

The University of Calgary Environmental Science Program

Impacts of Airborne Pollution from the Sour Gas Industry on Southern Alberta

Saboteurs: Wiebo Ludwig's War Against Big Oil,

A review of Nikiforuk's book by David Orton on the Green Web

Energy & Utility Board

EUB web site

Public Safety and Sour Gas Report

Progress report in response to recommendations in above report

Alberta Sustainable Resource Development

SRD web site

Useful Links

News & Reviews Andrew Nikiforuk's "Must Read" list.

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