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

  • Loblaw fourth-quarter profit up 57% to $201M

    Economic CBC News
    ?Loblaw had $11.13 billion of revenue and a $201 million net profit in the fourth quarter, according to earnings announced Thursday morning. The profit amounted to 50 cents per share. The net profit was up 57 per cent or $73 million from a year earlier, while revenue was up $265 million or 2.4 per cent. Source
  • Loblaw Q4 profit up 57 per cent to $201M

    Economic CTV News
    BRAMPTON, Ont. -- Loblaw had $11.13 billion of revenue and a $201 million net profit in the fourth quarter. The profit amounted to 50 cents per share. The net profit was up 57 per cent or $73 million from a year earlier, while revenue was up $265 million or 2.4 per cent. Source
  • CIBC grows first-quarter net income to $1.41B

    Economic CBC News
    ?CIBC increased its first-quarter net income to $1.41 billion, up from $982 million a year ago, according to earnings announced Thursday morning. The quarterly earnings amounted to $3.50 per diluted share, compared with $2.43 per diluted share during the same period last year. Source
  • Canadians put less into TFSAs in 2016: survey

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO - A new survey suggests Canadians contributed less to their tax-free savings accounts last year, mostly because they didn't have enough money to invest. The Bank of Montreal's annual TFSA survey found respondents contributed an average of $4,592 into their accounts last year - $939 less than the year before. Source
  • CIBC grows first quarter net income

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO - CIBC increased its first-quarter net income to $1.41 billion, up from $982 million a year ago. The quarterly earnings amounted to $3.50 per diluted share, compared with $2.43 per diluted share during the same period last year. Source
  • North Dakota officials beg last pipeline protesters to leave

    Economic CTV News
    CANNON BALL, N.D. - Public officials in North Dakota pleaded with the remaining protesters at the Dakota Access oil pipeline camp to pack up and leave so authorities can resume cleaning up the premises without any further arrests. Source
  • Asian stocks dip as U.S. rate hike mooted

    Economic CTV News
    HONG KONG - Asian shares slipped Thursday after the latest Fed minutes raised the possibility that a U.S. rate hike could come sooner than expected. KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 lost 0.4 per cent to 19,312.07 and South Korea's Kospi dipped 0.1 per cent to 2,104.70. Source
  • Global stocks steady as Fed minutes fail to sway investors

    Economic CTV News
    LONDON -- Global stock markets were trading in narrow ranges Thursday after the minutes to the last policymaking meeting of the Federal Reserve failed to provide much of a steer as to the timing of the U.S. Source
  • Tesla swings to lost in 4Q, says Model 3 on target

    Economic CTV News
    DETROIT -- Unable to string together profitable quarters, electric car and solar cell maker Tesla Inc. reported a loss for the last three months of 2016. Tesla posted its first profit in three years in last year's third quarter and had predicted net income in the fourth quarter. Source
  • Tesla swings to loss in 4Q, says Model 3 on target

    Economic CTV News
    DETROIT -- Unable to string together profitable quarters, electric car and solar cell maker Tesla Inc. reported a loss for the last three months of 2016. Tesla posted its first profit in three years in last year's third quarter and had predicted net income in the fourth quarter. Source