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ERCB reassures town about safety procedures

Staff from the Energy Resources Conservation Board outlined their mandate and the importance of communication with municipalities during the town's Policies and Priorities meeting on Feb. 22.

Staff from the Energy Resources Conservation Board outlined their mandate and the importance of communication with municipalities during the town's Policies and Priorities meeting on Feb. 22.

Ron Wagener, team leader for the field surveillance and operations branch of the Red Deer field centre and Jennifer Lutz, advisor for the office, explained that collaboration between the industry and municipalities is an important part of the process to ensure safety for all parties.

“There's different ways to extract the resource. That's why it's so important to collaborate,” he told councillors.

Wagener said it's important for municipalities to make their concerns known to the ERCB and that municipalities have every right to object to industry plans that might impact a municipality's growth plan.

Coun. Wade Bearchell asked about the process involved if a company, for example, drilled a well near the town office.

Abandoned wells are capped and a setback of anywhere between 100 and 1,500 metres is set depending on what type of development the facility is adjacent to and whether the well contains sour gas. A critical sour well has the greatest amount of risk and is required to be at least 1,500 metres from a public facility or an urban centre such as Olds.

Wagener said developers are required to notify owners of future lots if abandoned wells are located on the owner's property.

Asked by Coun. Mary Jane Harper if setbacks of 100 metres are required between facilities and town boundaries, Wagener said no such setbacks exist, but they do exist between facilities and a specific landowner's property.

In response to a question from Coun. Murray Ball regarding the mechanisms in place in case of an emergency, Wagener said disaster coordinators are contacted immediately in the case of an emergency to alert them to potential issues that may arise.

In an interview following the presentation, Wagener said his objective was to inform council about oil and gas regulation and how that might impact the town.

“It's basically education and awareness to the Town of Olds councillors and mayor on our regulatory requirements,” he said.

Some of the current work going on that may impact the town includes a TransCanada pipeline west of town, as well as the Pengrowth gas plant south of town.

Currently, there are no applications before the ERCB in the Olds area. Two applications by Bonavista Petroleum for pipelines about 4.8 kilometres southwest of Olds were approved and installed earlier this year.

Mayor Judy Dahl said the presentation was valuable from a safety perspective.

“There's been so many changes in the government (regulation) … that these folks are just there to tell us you don't have to sit back … you and your citizens (don't have to) be afraid. We're here to help you answer questions,” she said.

Bill Johnston, the town's director of disaster services, was to make a presentation to council on Monday at the town's regular council meeting.