Oil spill concerns ‘not adequately addressed’

An oil company responsible for a leak on the Red Deer River needs to better communicate with landowners and give them appropriate compensation for damages, said area residents on Saturday.

An oil company responsible for a leak on the Red Deer River needs to better communicate with landowners and give them appropriate compensation for damages, said area residents on Saturday.

A number of individuals who attended Plains Midstream Canada’s information session at James River Hall in Mountain View County say the company is not adequately addressing their concerns.

One person, who didn’t want to be named, said land agents representing Plains Midstream are even muzzling him from talking to the news media. He had concerns that his compensation would be less if he spoke openly.

Residents had the chance to talk with various Plains Midstream staff in the hall which had been set up with photo and information displays of what the company had done since the spill. On June 7, up to 3,000 barrels (475,000 litres) of light sour crude oil was released into the Red Deer River from a Plains Midstream Canada rangeland pipeline about one km north of Sundre.

Wayne Johnston, a farmer who owns land five km downstream of the spill, said that Saturday’s information session was only meant to pacify residents.

Paddy Munro, a councillor with Mountain View County, said that someone from Plains Midstream needs to spell out exactly what the land access agreement price is going to be and how compensation for damages will be addressed.

“One of their (Plains) big flaws has been their inability to communicate with our residents,” said Munro.

“It has just been terrible. They get themselves in so much trouble because people just hear rumours, no one talks to them. They need to get a handle on this and tell people what they’re going to do.”

Munro said some people are hearing they’ll get minimal payouts for damages done to their property.

“If that’s what it’s going to be, then say that,” he said. “But I believe (Plains Midstream) will come up with some kind of reasonable compensation package.”

The information session was not valuable for anyone trying to get solid answers, Munro said.

“People are just wandering around, eating little cookies and looking at pictures on the wall and I don’t believe there’s anyone there with the authority to actually say what the next steps will be,” he said.

Stephen Bart, vice-president of operations, spoke with Munro and a number of residents at Saturday’s session.

He said that discussions have been ongoing with area residents, in particular when there’s activities happening on their property and access is required, and when they can expect to have their land cleaned.

“This is really an opportunity to bring people together as part of that continuum of conversation that’s been going on,” said Bart.

Bart said some landowners told him on Saturday they appreciated the work that has been done by Plains Midstream. Other people are addressing their own specific concerns while others are wondering what kind of preventative plans are in place to ensure such a spill doesn’t happen again, he added.

Bart said he’s well aware of the range of emotions that people are feeling. He said he understands that people want to see their concerns addressed in a timely manner.

If people have suggestions on how communication could be improved, Bart said the company is open to that.

Some landowners have been told they’ll receive $1,500 for damages — a number they believe is far too low.

“We’re not suggesting a one-size-fits-all,” Bart said.

Dennis Overguard, a member of the Red Deer River Quality Control Board that would like to see a dam built west of Sundre to prevent major flooding, was given the chance by Plains Midstream to talk about the dam in front of about 20 people.

Towards the end, he threw in what he most wanted to talk about — the impact of oil spills on people’s ability to refinance their mortgages through the banks.

“It makes it so your land is virtually worthless. If you can’t use your land as collateral, you have nothing,” said Overguard. “I got mine straightened out now with another bank. I just put up another quarter section of land (as collateral).”