Rural landowners ‘bulldozed’

Rural landowners should make it “as difficult as possible” for oil and gas projects, in order to challenge the provincial government’s new energy regulation bill, says the Alberta Surface Rights Group (ASRG). Bill 2, the Responsible E

Rural landowners should make it “as difficult as possible” for oil and gas projects, in order to challenge the provincial government’s new energy regulation bill, says the Alberta Surface Rights Group (ASRG).

Bill 2, the Responsible Energy Development Act, has received second reading and proposes streamlined energy project approval.

Opponent Kevin Niemi calls it “bulldozing.”

“It’s a stealth attack. They’re trying to spook it through with a heavy-handed robbery of rights,” says the Trochu-area farmer and surface rights group member.

A new posting on the 1,400-member group’s website calls for thwarting development by using existing laws like the Trespass, Weed Control and Pest Control Acts as well as calling a rural councillor “every time a company stirs up some dust.”

Educating Albertans on the bill’s provisions and forming a “critical mass” of protesting landowners are also promoted.

“It is unfortunate that the government has forced us into advocating this position,” reads the posting.

“Our preference is to work with our ‘industry friends’ for our mutual benefit.”

Niemi says Bill 2 lacks any effective appeal of decisions.

“If you want to challenge (a regulator’s report), it goes back to the regulator. It’s just a circle. How can anyone objectively analyze their own report?”

Other criticism focuses on government appointment of the regulator’s chief commissioner and board.

“It’s not an independent regulator. The regulator has to follow the marching orders of cabinet so (the process) can be politicized.”

The Wildrose Party has called for changes to the bill, as has the NDP.

Meanwhile, Energy Minister Ken Hughes will tour the province later this month and into December to speak to Albertans about the bill and the government’s 15 newly proposed amendments. A schedule of dates and places should be available by next week, said a department spokesperson.

Hughes is likely to get a rough ride in Central Alberta, given landowner outrage expressed in Sylvan Lake on Wednesday. Billed as a meet and greet with Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk to discuss local issues, a number of Camrose-area opponents demanded changes to Bill 2.

Niemi hopes Hughes’ tour isn’t part of “a slick public relations scheme.”

“Our biggest threat, which is ongoing, is that they throw in 100 things and they change one or two things and you’re still left with an ugly bill.”

For the full text of the Alberta Surface Rights Group’s posting, go to its website www.albertasurfacerights.com.

rfiedler@bprda.wpengine.com

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