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County worried about proposed oilpatch response plans

Proposed changes to provincial regulations around oilpatch emergency response has raised concerns at Mountain View County council.

Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board is updating Directive 071: Emergency Preparedness and Response Requirements for the Petroleum Industry and has asked for public feedback.

Council recently reviewed proposed regulatory changes and was not reassured by what it saw in a section that deals with requirements for oil and gas companies to obtain emergency contact information for those living within the emergency planning zone (EPZ) around oil and gas installations.

“Directive 71 from our perspective takes a lot of the onus of oil companies and puts it on municipalities,” said Reeve Bruce Beattie.

“We’re not in favour of that.”

Beattie said in the past it has always been the role of companies to be responsible for the emergency response plan and ensure they are aware of all landowners and residents, including renters, in the area around an oil and gas facility.

“We, as a municipality, we keep track of residences.

“But we don’t keep track of who’s living in buildings, who’s living in a rental property, that type of thing,” he said.

Ultimately, municipalities are responsible for emergency response, but Mountain View County doesn’t have the resources — or perhaps not even the authority — to collect that kind of information, he added.

“Presently, the companies do. So we think it’s a step backward in terms of public safety.”

ERCB spokesman Bob Curran said they will review all of the responses after the deadline for feedback ends on Tuesday.

“Once we have all feedback in hand, we will review it and determine if changes are required,” he says in an emailed reply to a request for comment on the county’s concerns.

“It would be inappropriate to comment on any feedback until that process is complete.”

Sundre Petroleum Operators Group (SPOG), which represents more than two dozen oil and gas companies in the area, also has expressed reservations with the proposed directive.

SPOG points out in a written summary of comments going to the ERCB that the directive notes provincial legislation assigns to a municipality the authority and responsibility for all aspects of emergency response within its jurisdiction.

However typically, municipalities do not have the knowledge or experience with oil and gas operations to “deal appropriately with incidents within the EPZ,” says SPOG’s comments.

Emergency planning and response should fall on the oil and gas company and the municipalities can help out through mutual aid agreements, the group says.

SPOG also noted that municipalities don’t collect the resident information necessary to send out tax notices and the amount of contact information available was spotty.

For instance, when SPOG requested landowner contact information after the Plains Midstream Canada spill last June, only 98 of the 332 records provided by the county included phone numbers and 32 other numbers were not in use or incorrect.

SPOG also saw problems with a requirement that only phone numbers and physical location of a residence or other development be required in the emergency planning zone.

Based on SPOG’s past experience, even knowing phone numbers and visiting homes directly doesn’t work when trying to track down people.

pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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