By Lethbridge Herald on May 28, 2015.
West Lethbridge residents may be facing another oil-drilling proposal.
Bids were being accepted Wednesday for a lease covering more than 1,150 hectares of land, with rights to drill for oil or natural gas.
A map on an Alberta Energy website site shows the drill site would be near the Sunset Acres residential development — and to the Oldman River, source of the city’s drinking water. The location is not far from an earlier scheme by Goldenkey Oil from Calgary, which would have seen several exploratory wells drilled near the Copperwood neighbourhood and the city’s two westside high schools.
Faced with strong opposition from Lethbridge citizens and city council, Goldenkey backed away last year from plans to drill inside city limits. Newly elected Lethbridge MLAs Shannon Phillips and Maria Fitzpatrick were among thousands of residents who stood opposed, signing petitions or attending rallies calling for Goldenkey to abandon its plans.
Phillips, now the province’s minister responsible for environmental protection, was not available for comment Wednesday. Her officials in Edmonton said she was busy at a cabinet meeting in Calgary.
A request for comment from Marg McCuaig-Boyd, the new minister responsible for Alberta Energy, was also unsuccessful Wednesday. But a department official said more information will be available soon.
Last year, the city’s new MLAs were not the only political leaders to speak up. Mayor Chris Spearman and incumbent MLAs Bridget Pastoor and Greg Weadick also voiced their support for Lethbridge residents’ demands.
In addition to safety concerns voiced by local residents, the city cited the costs of alienated, undevelopable land and the need for more evacuation routes in the case of an oilfield emergency.
The new proposal is outside city limits, however, and no longer an “urban drilling” issue.
More recently, New Democrat leader MLA Rachel Notley included a ban on urban drilling for natural gas in her party’s election promises. She was also elected on a promise to review the royalty rates paid to Albertans by regional and international companies draining the province’s energy reserves.
Closer to home, the No Drilling Lethbridge group went “on hiatus” after Goldenkey announced it was not proceeding. But its Facebook page indicates residents are concerned about the energy officials’ latest sale of development rights.
Responding to concerns voiced by Albertans in Lethbridge and beyond, the long-running Conservative government several years ago promised a new policy would be developed — hopefully balancing the values of city residents with the economics of the energy industry. But no new approach was announced before its defeat in the May 5 election.
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