Sickening oilpatch odours return to northwestern Alberta

A resurgence of sickening, gassy smells from Alberta's northwestern oilsands have residents increasingly impatient over a problem they thought had been solved.

See Full Article

"You can smell the absolute presence of gas," said Garrett Tomlinson, reeve of Northern Sunrise County near Peace River.

"It was to the point of making them sick -- headaches, and all those things that we thought had been rectified."

Two years ago, people in communities such as Three Creeks earned national headlines when they complained that constant tarry reeks from nearby oilsands plants using an unusual processing method were driving them from their land.

Residents complained of headaches, nausea, diarrhea, and said their livestock was similarly affected, with cattle spontaneously aborting calves.

The Alberta Energy Regulator investigated and released a report in March 2014 that called for stricter emissions controls. Air-monitoring equipment was installed and new regulations took effect last October.

But the familiar petrochemical miasmas returned shortly after.

"It has been an ongoing thing, but we noticed it as a significant issue since mid-December," Tomlinson said. "That's when I started getting regular phone calls and emails from residents saying, 'This is an issue."'

Documents released by the county suggest complaints began increasing toward the end of November. During the last two weeks of that month, the county recorded seven odour events complete with health effects from joint pain to exhaustion.

"This is not acceptable," said county administrator Peter Thomas in a Dec. 29 email to his staff.

"Laws have been changed and equipment is in place to determine when there are issues. Now, when we can confirm there is an issue, we have no one to take action?"

The problem, said Doug Dallyn of the Peace River Air Monitoring Program, is that monitoring stations don't automatically alert industry and government when the air is bad -- even though that's well within their capabilities.

"I'm pushing the government to say, 'You made the industry put these air stations in and now you won't even recognize the ability these stations have?'

"Why are (regulators) not being told and why are (they) waiting until two days afterwards to start trying to look for a leak that isn't there any more?"

Sunrise officials bemoan the lack of on-the-ground enforcement.

"There has to be an authority that can go do a site visit and be empowered to shut things down and issue a fine," wrote Thomas.

The regulator said it is still developing regulations to deal specifically with the Peace River oilsands play. The agency had been scheduled to discuss them with the county on Thursday, but was forced to reschedule to digest the large number of public comments it had received.

"The (regulator) has received and continues to follow up on odour complaints in the Three Creeks area," said spokeswoman Melanie Veriotes in an email.

"Our inspectors respond to all concerns and emergencies around the clock and, when requested, report back to the concerned Albertan on the findings."

Operators in the area include Shell Canada, Baytex Energy (TSX:BTE.UN) and Murphy Oil. Dallyn said no one company has been linked to any of the emission events.



Advertisements

Latest Economic News

  • Guide to 'fake news' wins $30,000 National Business Book Award

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO -- A timely guide to distinguishing fact from fiction in the era of "fake news" was announced Monday as the winner of the $30,000 National Business Book Award. Neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin said he was prompted to write "A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age" (Allen Lane Canada) as a response to the "Balkanization of the news over the last 15 years. Source
  • Montreal couple hid winning $55M lottery ticket in daughter's toy box

    Economic CTV News
    MONTREAL -- A Montreal couple who won $55 million in a lottery jackpot hid the winning ticket in their daughter's toy box over the weekend. Nathalie Langlais and Gilles Rosnen picked up their winnings at Loto-Quebec headquarters in Montreal on Monday, three days after the Lotto Max draw. Source
  • Capital markets not a place for 2nd chances, OSC lawyers tell Drabinsky hearing

    Economic CBC News
    Lawyers for Ontario's securities regulator said today in their closing statements that Garth Drabinsky, who defrauded investors of an estimated $500 million, should not be allowed to participate in the capital markets. Pamela Foy, senior litigation counsel with the Ontario Securities Commission, says the capital markets are not the place for second chances and the commission cannot allow Drabinsky to be in a position where he could do more damage. Source
  • Luxury shoe brand Jimmy Choo goes up for sale

    Economic CTV News
    LONDON -- Shares in Jimmy Choo have leapt 11 per cent after its board put the luxury shoe brand up for sale. The gains bring the market value of the firm that began in east London to over 700 million pounds ($896 million). Source
  • Hertz and Thrifty to pay $1.25M fine following probe into their advertising

    Economic CTV News
    OTTAWA - Car rental companies Hertz Canada Ltd. and Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group Canada Inc. have agreed to pay a total of $1.25 million in penalties following an investigation into their advertising by the federal Competition Bureau. Source
  • U.S. Supreme Court rejects GM appeal to block ignition switch lawsuits

    Economic CBC News
    The United States Supreme Court has turned away an appeal from General Motors Co. seeking to block dozens of lawsuits over faulty ignition switches that could expose the company to billions of dollars in additional claims. Source
  • Qatar Airways sees 'manageable' decline in flights to U.S.

    Economic CTV News
    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- The CEO of one of the Middle East's largest carriers said Monday passenger numbers to the United States have dipped slightly over fears by some Muslim passengers that their visas may be rejected upon arrival, but expressed confidence in President Donald Trump as a "very good businessman. Source
  • Extra EI help to hard-hit regions tops $1 billion, surpassing budget estimates

    Economic CTV News
    OTTAWA -- The federal government says it has paid out more than $1 billion in extra employment insurance benefits to out-of-work Canadians in the hardest-hit economic regions of the country, blowing past what the Liberals estimated the program would cost. Source
  • Home Capital says founder Gerald Soloway to leave board, CFO to change role

    Economic CBC News
    Home Capital Group Inc. said Monday that two people named in an Ontario Securities Commission action against the company will be moving out of their roles. The embattled mortgage lender said chief financial officer Robert Morton will shift out of that role after the company files its first-quarter results. Source
  • Notley says Canada will have lots of allies if Trump goes after energy trade

    Economic CTV News
    GUANGZHOU, China -- Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says U.S. President Donald Trump is likely to have some unhappy supporters south of the border if he goes after Canadian energy with trade sanctions. Notley, who is on a trade mission in China, says she doesn't know what Trump was talking about last week when he lumped energy in with other trade irritants, including softwood lumber and dairy. Source