Lacombe County won’t fund group that links energy companies with rural residents

Group offers link between energy industry and residents

Lacombe County has rejected a request to help fund a group that provides a link between the energy industry and rural residents.

The county received a request to provide $1,000 towards Central Alberta Synergy’s operating budget. Other municipalities will be asked to provide the same amount.

Oil and gas companies will be charged $2,500, and service companies $1,500.

Lacombe County council debated the request last Thursday and voted 6-1 to turn it down. Coun. Keith Stephenson was the only one in favour.

Central Alberta Synergy says on its Facebook page that the group was formed in the fall of 2018 in response to increased oil and gas activity in central Alberta. It is one of a network of similar groups across the province that are governed by Synergy Alberta.

Lacombe, Red Deer and Ponoka counties, City of Red Deer and Town of Bentley are part of Central Alberta Synergy, along with the Alberta Energy Regulator and area landowners.

Stephenson argued the group is a useful link between county residents and the energy industry.

“I’d hate to lose this over $1,000,” he said.

However, Coun. Barb Shepherd countered that the main beneficiaries of synergy groups is industry, which can use them to keep residents informed about what is going on around them.

Funding the group this year could set a precedent for future requests, she said.

Coun. Ken Wigmore shared a similar concern.

“It’s expected if you support once, you’re going to be expected to support it every year,” he said.

While the group is useful, the county should not be expected to support it financially, said Coun. Brenda Knight.

“The venue is working, but I still think it should be funded by the oil companies.”

The group meets monthly and typically includes presentations on issues affecting area residents. A recent meeting included a talk from a Farmers Advocate Office of Alberta representative.

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