Alberta briefs – February 17

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is expected to shuffle his cabinet by the end of the week.

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Stelmach expected to shuffle cabinet Friday

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is expected to shuffle his cabinet by the end of the week.

Stelmach has some holes to fill as some ministers have resigned to run for his job in the Tory leadership contest expected to take place this fall.

The province does not have a justice minister, as Alison Redford has resigned to run.

Doug Horner, the deputy premier and advanced education minister, resigned last month, as did Treasurer Ted Morton. Treasury Board president Lloyd Snelgrove has assumed Morton’s duties.


911 recording from day woman killed released

CALGARY — Recordings of the 911 calls that led to changes in the Calgary emergency dispatch centre have been released.

Shengjun An has already pleaded guilty to killing his 41-year-old wife, Susan Cheng, in their home last year.

The 44-year-old father of two had discovered his wife was having an affair with one of her massage therapy clients and he beat her and pushed her to the ground, where she hit her head on a concrete floor in the basement of their home.

There were several 911 calls made on the night of the attack, but because of problems with locating addresses from cellphones and evasiveness from An, police arrived 14 hours after the first hang-up call.

An hour before the fatal attack, the 911 operator is heard speaking to An and a woman is screaming in the background, “I need help, I need help.”

There are several other calls in which one of the couple’s daughters tells police nothing is wrong and also gives police a wrong address.

After Cheng’s death, protocols were changed so now emergency dispatchers pass on all 911 hang-up calls to police if there is any possibility a person is in danger.

The changes also included a directive that police will also be given the billing addresses for 911 cellphone calls.

An pleaded guilty to manslaughter and will be sentenced Feb. 24.


Pipeline safety disputed

EDMONTON — American environmentalists and Canadian energy regulators are squaring off over the safety of pipelines carrying bitumen from the oilsands.

A report released by Washington’s Natural Resources Defense Council suggests Alberta pipelines are 16 times more likely to spring leaks because of internal corrosion than U.S. pipelines. That’s despite the fact the province’s lines tend to be newer.

The report, intended to erode support for TransCanada Corp.’s (TSX:TRP) proposed Keystone XL oilsands pipeline into the U.S, says Alberta had 218 spills per 10,000 miles of pipeline between 2002 and 2010 due to internal corrosion. The entire United States had 14.

The report suggests the higher failure rate may be a result of Alberta pipelines carrying more DilBit, a petroleum product composed of oilsands bitumen diluted with enough hydrocarbon fluids to make it flow. It says that over two-thirds of all crude produced in Alberta was transported as DilBit at some point in 2009.

But Alberta’s energy regulator disputes the report’s key finding. The Energy Resources Conservation Board says the comparisons between systems are unfair.

Spokesman Davis Sheremata points out that about one-quarter of the Alberta pipelines in the analysis connected energy facilities over short distances. Those pipes do carry highly corrosive materials such as sour gas or salt water, but such materials are removed from DilBit before it enters long-haul transmission pipelines.

He also said board data shows pipelines carrying DilBit spring leaks at about the same rate as other pipelines.