Meetings to detail energy industry concerns

The Alberta Surface Rights Group is rolling out a series of public information meetings this month to draw attention to the risks, cost and impacts of oilfield fracking and carbon capture and sequestration.

The Alberta Surface Rights Group is rolling out a series of public information meetings this month to draw attention to the risks, cost and impacts of oilfield fracking and carbon capture and sequestration.

Group member and longtime landowner rights advocate Don Bester said the first meeting, which is set for Trochu Community Centre on Tuesday beginning at 6:30 p.m., is just the beginning.

As many as 20 meetings might be held throughout Central Alberta over the next three or four months.

The goal is always the same — get the word out to the public about some of the issues that could prove a threat to the well-being of present and future generations.

“That’s what our organization is all about, informing the public,” said Bester of the group, which now lists 1,200 members.

Among the issues on the group’s radar screen is hydro fracking — a process to fracture rock formations with high-pressure fluids to allow natural gas and oil molecules to flow out.

Critics say the practice wastes billions of litres of fresh water that is lost forever, and has caused other problems with underground aquifers.

The industry says the process is safe, well regulated and underground water supplies are not at risk when wells are sealed properly.

The guest speaker for the Trochu meeting is environmental lawyer Barry Robinson, who is with Ecojustice, which is based out of Vancouver but has offices in several cities, including Calgary.

Robinson is representing a Weyburn, Sask., family that believes carbon dioxide sequestered 1.4 km under the ground on their farm is escaping to the surface, causing the water in a dugout to bubble and killing animals.

Not all are convinced and a team of scientists from the University of Texas, with help from the University of Regina, went to the farm in September to test for leaking greenhouse gases.

A report is expected next month.

Bester said concerns about Alberta’s Carbon Capture and Storage Statutes Amendment Act (Bill 24), which was passed by the legislature last December, will be raised at the meeting.

The legislation is meant to set the stage for the development of the province’s carbon sequestration initiative and kick starts it with a $2.5-billion commitment.

Bester is critical of the bill, saying it takes away landowners’ sub-surface rights and will leave taxpayers on the hook for liabilities if sequestration projects experience problems.

The Alberta government denies the legislation takes away any rights and says the province will only take over sequestration sites when operators have shown they are safe after long-term monitoring.

But Bester questions who is going to do the monitoring. “I don’t trust the (Energy Resources Conservation Board). I don’t trust the government of Alberta.”

Bester said he hopes that once the public have the facts, the momentum will build and the government will be convinced to repeal Bill 24.

Presentations are to begin at 7:30 p.m. Suggested donations are $5 for members, $10 for non-members and $50 for industry.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com