1982 Alberta: Sour gas and sickness; Smelly smelly run-around. Regulators/Health authorities, then and now, lie to the harmed, coddle the polluters. Alberta’s Pollution Solution: Discredit the poisoned; call them crazy.

As usual, after pointing out and or making damning documents showing health harm by the oil and gas industry public, authorities remove them from public access (some of these sour gas links no longer work).

Sour Gas damages the brain, even at very low levels:

1. Exposure to levels below 10 ppm permanently damage the human brain

2. Harm from levels below 10 ppm by Worksafe Alberta

3. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) LOW LEVEL HEALTH HARM WARNINGS:

Sour Gas Concentration (ppm)/Symptoms/Effects

0.01-1.5 ppm/Odor threshold (when rotten egg smell is first noticeable to some). …

2-5 ppm/Prolonged exposure may cause nausea, tearing of the eyes, headaches or loss of sleep. Airway problems (bronchial constriction) in some asthma patients.

Cartoon in Calgary Herald, 2005

Sour gas and sickness by Peter Hepher, September 23, 1982, Calgary Herald

There was something exasperatingly familiar about the press conference that was held in Lethbridge last week to announce the latest findings respecting emissions from sour gas plants near Pincher Creek.

I wasn‘t there, but from what I’ve read and heard of the proceedings I smell run-around, just as I’ve smelled it several times during the past couple of decades when the same issue has been raised.

It’s a shame, because continued frustration and suspicion are helping nobody – not Gulf Canada and Shell Canada, which own the plants in question; not the provincial government, whose responsibility it is to protect Albertans’ health and the environment; and certainly not the people living down-wind from the plants who blame there ill health on the emissions.

After all, this issue has been hanging around – I’m tempted to say, has been kicked around – for two decades. It ought to have been within the wit of men to resolve it, one way or another, in that time, if the will had been there.

Twenty years ago next November, when Social Credit still governed Alberta, Health Minister J. Donovan Ross announced what was, so far as I know, the first official investigation of complaints about air pollution in the district south of Pincher Creek.

But then, as now, residents thought that the examination was superficial. It told them their problems were psychological. Alberta’s Pollution Solution: Discredit the poisoned; call them crazy. After I presented the regulators with evidence of Encana’s law violations, regulator spin meisters told the public I was that “crazy lady at Rosebud” and Encana land agents were telling landowners the same thing and not to heed anything I said or the evidence I dug up.

Some of them were stubborn enough to persist. In 1965, 15 families embracing 82 people launched a suit against Shell and Gulf for $1.5 million in damages.

Nearly six years later, the companies broke off court proceedings and agreed to a $700,000 out-of-court settlement. But that didn’t put an end to the complaints – or to the government’s efforts to lay them to rest.

In July, 1981, two new air-pollution studies conducted by Alberta Environment again concluded that no link had been established between plant emissions and the symptoms of ill health reported by area residents. But the government was prodded into asking a Canadian Public Health Association task force to have a look. It decided there could very well be a problem, that although nothing had so far been proved there were factors that hadn’t yet been investigated. It urged the government to underwrite a more thorough study, to the tune of $200,00.000.

The government balked. Instead, after first proposing simply to assemble all existing data for examination by the provincial Board of Health it compromised by instructing the board to compare sickness symptoms and hair samples of residents in the Twin Butte area with those living in two other districts which have no nearby sour-gas plants.

It was an interim report on this study that was unveiled in Lethbridge last week. The Board of Health, noting that sickness was found in all three areas, offered a variation on the tired old refrain. The Twin Butte study, it  said, indicated there was no community health problem.

When questioned by reporters, however, the sociologist who had done the survey acknowledged that more illnesses were found in Twin Butte and that some of them were different than those found in other areas.

That didn’t disprove the Board of Health’s contention, but it rendered it suspect in my eyes. It left me wondering how interested the government is in finding out why people near the gas plants suffer stomach pains, headaches, nausea, nosebleeds and other afflictions.

Until the government appoints a manifestly impartial agency (such as the Canadian Public Health Association) to carry out a comprehensive and penetrating investigation of this matter, suspicion that it is less than enthusiastic about dispelling uncertainty and doing its protective duty is bound to linger.

Refer also to:

New Study: Sulfide-producing bacteria dominate hydraulically fractured shale oil & gas wells. “An estimated 70% of waterflooded reservoirs world-wide have soured.”

To Honour the Fallen on Remembrance Day: Make public AER’s secret “D79 Abandoned Well Methane Toxicity Preliminary Assessment” & Appendix 2 by Alberta Health, Admitting “Acute-Life threatening” risks & “Neurological effects” from just methane/ethane! Sour gas is much deadlier.

Note the red dotted line in graph above: “Acute-Life Threatening, Emergency Evacuation Threshold”

2016 11 10: AER Monique Dube et al Secret: ‘D79 Abandoned Well Methane Toxicity Preliminary Assessment’

2016 11 01: Alberta Health ‘Methane from Leaking Abandoned Wells Health and Safety Issues’ in Appendix 2 of AER’s Dube et al D79 Report

Nakoda Nation, Alberta: 1988, Engineer reported hundreds of drinking water wells contaminated with sour gas on Stoney Reserve west of Calgary. H2S is deadly, damages the brain even at low levels. AER blamed nature and if not nature, then bacteria. Same blame game polka after frac’ing contaminated drinking water wells with gas at Ponoka, Wetaskiwin, Spirit River, Rockyford, Rosebud, Redland, etc.

The Silent Killer Strikes Again: Texas oilfield worker killed after exposure to H₂S (sour) gas at Aghorn Energy site in Odessa, Wife (mother of 3) dies checking on him, Two children exposed but survived. Lawsuit filed.

Fracking the golf course. Indian Hills Golf Course, Lambton Shores, Ontario: Massive [sour?] natural gas geysers and erupting greens in 2015. Two municipalities declared state of emergency, Golf Course had to shut down

An old natural gas well in Bayham that is leaking water laced with potentially dangerous hydrogen sulphide gas, is just one of countless similar abandoned and forgotten oil and gas wells throughout southwestern Ontario.

They pose a threat to public safety and to the environment.

An Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources spokesman wasn’t immediately available but the MNR says on its website that “tens of thousands of wells” were drilled in the 100 years before modern-day regulation over design and decommissioning began almost a half-century ago.

And records for many are incomplete or non-existent. In fact, landowners, themselves, may not know they exist.

… Bayham said in a notice posted Thursday evening to its website at bayham.on.ca that the well is emitting sulphur water that contains hydrogen sulfide gas, prompting several complaints of its characteristic odour near Port Burwell and Vienna.

The gas is heavier than air and if it collects in sufficient concentration, it is potentially deadly.

Ontario: In Norfolk, leaking abandoned industry *sour* gas wells forces exclusion zone for vehicles, vessels, and evacuation of 22 homes. In nearby Town of Jarvis (population 2,300), unusually high methane readings, firefighters test gas levels at every home. Compare to grossly negligent, “No Duty of Care,” Charter-violating, lying, spying, heinous AER covering-up industry’s deadly gas leaks.

Suncor facing 7 environmental charges by Alberta Environment, seems in relation to sour gas leak at Sherwood Park refinery that sent numerous workers to hospital in 2018. Why no charges against Encana/Ovintiv for breaking every law there is in Alberta to protect residential drinking water supplies?

Why did Paramount suddenly distribute Emergency Response Plan in Town of Fox Creek? To distract from Sprocket Energy’s 460,000 litre spill/leak/frac hit at abandoned sour gas well near Smoke Lake Provincial Park and the town?

Sprocket Energy Corp: Bigger sour gas release – 480,000 litres – by “mechanical failure” (code for frac hit?) at Fox Creek Alberta. People live there, H2S is deadly, damages the brain even at low levels, yet again, media reports nothing. Jason Kenney/Steve Harper have friends on the board?

IT’S A BIG ONE! AER Order against Sprocket Energy sour gas well leak/spill (by frac hit?) six km SW of Town of Fox Creek. Why no media coverage on possibly life-threatening, brain damaging leak near busy Smoke Lake Provincial Park Campground?

“Polluter” Shell & “Penny Stock” Pieridae to retry their sour gas marriage, coached by AER, funded by “Loser” AIMCo. Stewart Shields: “Alberta Conservative gov’ts becoming recognized as the worst petroleum managers in the free world—as this story by the famous Andrew Nikiforuk describes so pointedly!!”

AER laid five environmental and conservation-related charges against Tourmaline Oil and spinoff Topaz Energy Corp., and three charges against CWC Energy Services for knowingly leaking sour gas (H2S) “that impacted human health” in 2018 near Spirit River, Alberta. Court hearing Feb 19, 2020 in Grand Prairie. Why no charges against Encana, now Ovintiv, for its illegal sour gas venting near Rosebud and illegally operating a sour gas facility and wells as sweet?

Encana’s Vexatious Sour Gas Frack Flaring near Grand Prairie, Alberta; After clip posted, Encana pulls a scrubby dubby.

Whimps Extraordinaire! Ex-Encana VP (Gerard Protti) led AER taps Encana with $7,500 administrative penalty for major sour gas blowout at Fox Creek Alberta, Nothing for injecting 18 million litres of frac fluid into Rosebud’s drinking water aquifers.

AER & Encana Lying Update: Encana’s Deadly Sour Gas Blow Out at Fox Creek: Did Alberta’s Energy Minister lie for Encana & “No Duty of Care,” cover-up agent extraordinaire, the AER?

AER: Toothless, Legally Immune (even for acts in bad faith and gross negligence), Charter Violating, Best in the World Wonder. Why hasn’t AER shut rogue Lexin Resources Ltd. down? Why leave Albertans in danger of being killed or poisoned? “The regulator said in an order released Tuesday that if Lexin and its related company, LR Processing, fail to provide sufficient oversight, sour gas could be released into the environment with potentially dangerous effects.”

Why are Spectra Energy and the NEB lying about flaring deadly sour gas at Taylor, BC, claiming it poses no risk to the public?

SPECIAL REPORT: Sour gas from oil wells a deadly problem in southeast Saskatchewan, Human and animal deaths linked to hydrogen sulphide emissions

B.C. horse breeder recounts fracking sour gas leak scare caused by Encana

MUST WATCH! MUST READ! Sulfolane (used to sweeten sour gas) leak at Bonavita Energy’s South Rosevear Gas Plant, Edson Alberta, contaminated drinking water, severe health harm experienced by Mersadese Royale, her husband and children; Family evicted after raising concerns publicly

B.C. school kids in danger, can suffer DNA damage illness from leaking sour gas several km away, yet B.C. allows wells within 100 m (~330 feet) of schools while Dallas City Council votes in 1,500 foot setback from homes and wells!

Sour gas wells by schools in NEBC

Encana Reaches Compensation Deal for Sour Gas Leak

Crossfield steer killed by Taqa North sour gas release

Edson, Alberta, South Rosevear Sour Gas Plant: 2.8 million standard cubic feet per day of H2S / CO2 acid gas injected since 2007

1997 09 01: Remembering Rumsey Ranch by Don Belanger, Arn Keeling, Catherine Kiszkiel, Susan Villeneuve and Carman Bickerton, The History Collaborative Carleton University (Canada) in The London Journal of Canadian Studies

While Hanen was able to force various improvements in the plant operations in the 1970s and the 1980s, plant pollutants had seriously eroded both the environmental purity and property value of the ranch by 1990. Convinced that government and industry were working in tandem to ignore and silence her concerns, Hanen filed suit in 1991 against Esso and the Energy Resources Conservation Board of Alberta for damages to the ranch’s cattle, soil, air and groundwater. While a settlement was ultimately achieved, the much more difficult task of finding ways of remedying, if not restoring the ranch’s environment is underway through the work of the Restoration Action Committee. There are a number of themes at work in the account given in this paper: the regulatory authority’s failure to regulate; political disinterest in redressing that failure; Esso’s refusal to acknowledge the extent of pollution and their strategy of portraying Hanen as a corporate adversary; the insignificance of the community’s role in the dispute; and perhaps most clearly, the utter lack of coherent management of remediation efforts after the groundwater pollution was confirmed in 1986….

Of course, the first thing that should be done is to immediately prevent any more input of contaminants.

If the sources are not shut down, the problem will never be fixed. …

The Hanen collection of records indicate that from the 1970s to the 1990s, the Alberta Surface Rights Board (SRB), the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), and the Alberta Department of the Environment were reluctant to acknowledge adverse environmental effects caused by the sour gas industry, and consistently circumvented Hanen’s concerns with the industry’s operations.

Although the ERCB and Alberta Environment occasionally showed initiative in addressing the problems, their standards and regulations were violated frequently and without penalty, and their actions to augment controls and to remedy problems were reactive and nominal. …

Neither has co-operation extended to public scrutiny into sour gas operations. Hanen’s frustration and anger in dealing with the regulatory agencies, particularly the ERCB, has been shared by many other ranchers and farmers. …

The Board itself recently made a similar observation in a 1994 report, which noted,

“We were told that too many people feel that they have not been listened to and their concerns do not matter.” …

Yet there is increasing discontent among some Albertans. The level of complaint is reflected in annual reports by the Office of the Farmers’ Advocate, a government advisory bureau created in the early 1970’s to aid farmers in disputes with oil companies. The 1995 report records about 2,000-2,500 enquiries by farmers related to the oil and gas industry, more than twice the number reported in the mid-1970s [Annual Reports of the Office of the Farmers’ Advocate, 1975-1995, passim]. This volume of complaint speaks to the growing unease among agricultural producers living in the shadow of the oil and gas industries.

Among these complainants, perhaps the loudest has been one woman, Zahava Hanen. John Ralston Saul has reminded us in his recent [Massey] Lectures that corporate power will soon be an even greater presence in our world than it is now. He argues that the only effective challenge to its abuse of power is the citizen, who maintains an informed vigil and dares to stand fast against intimidation. Hanen’s struggle, then, is emblematic of how this vigilance serves not merely local self-interest, but also the collective interests of the community, society and the environment.


No wonder AER removed public interest from their mandate after my lawsuit went public (2011) and have no public health mandate.

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