Alberta Premier Redford says she’s well aware of urban drilling concerns but doing nothing about them, except promising the loudly opposing community of Lethbridge a new school

GoldenKey investment small compared to residents’ investment by Frances Schultz, February 13, 2014, Lethbridge Herald

To Premier Alison Redford:

I am writing to express my objection to the permit allowing GoldenKey Oil company to lease drilling rights under 10 sections in southwest Lethbridge. I find it incredible that your government would even consider allowing this area to be leased out for drilling operations.

I wish to approach this from a different angle. We have 10 sections of land involved at a reported price of $500,000 paid into the provincial coffers. Leaving aside who would have made the decision to make urban land available for such a lease, I wish to examine the economics of this decision. A very modest evaluation of the surface value of farm land pegs this at $2 million per section, or $20 million for the 10 sections. Add to that the millions of dollars invested by the residents who own houses on a good part of this land and one can see that investments on the surface of this lease adds up to multi-millions of dollars. GoldenKey has invested $500,000, the cost of one of the mid-range homes on that land. Their investment is miniscule compared to that of residents, the city of Lethbridge and businesses.

It is time to pay GoldenKey back their lease payment and protect the interests of the citizens of Lethbridge. Since your government was able to do this for the community of Fort McMurray plus establish a buffer zone for their protection, it is time to extend the same courtesy and concern to the City of Lethbridge and its citizens. You have the power to do this, so do it. Policy needs to be enacted to protect the investments of surface rights holders. [Emphasis added]

Redford says she’s well aware of urban drilling concerns by Caroline Zentner, February 13, 2014, Lethbridge Herald
Premier Alison Redford said she’s confident the Alberta Energy Regulator will do its job when it deals with Goldenkey Oil’s application to drill exploratory oil wells in west Lethbridge. “The energy regulator is the regulator that’s in place to manage these interests. We have these activities happening in a number of communities across the province and we’ve been very proud of the work that’s happened.  But it only gets approved if there’s contingency plans in place and communities are working with industry,” Redford said.

Redford was in town Wednesday to announce a new school in north Lethbridge for the Holy Spirit Catholic school division. She spoke to media following the brief ceremony. The Lethbridge public school board, the Holy Spirit Catholic school division and the City of Lethbridge have formally opposed Goldenkey’s plans and many residents have registered their opposition by signing a petition or sending their concerns to the Alberta Energy Regulator. “I know that there’s a number of people in the community that have concerns. That’s exactly where we should be right now,” she said. “If companies want to undertake economic activity, they need to work with communities to ensure that they’ve addressed their concerns, then make that application to the regulator and then that regulator, which is separate from us, will make a decision and will have to take into account any adverse impact because that’s what we’ve asked the regulator to do.” [How can the regulator be separate from government, when that very government tells the regulator what to do?]

Some residents have suggested the province buy back the mineral leases that were sold to Goldenkey, as it did in Fort McMurray. Last July, the province announced the establishment of an Urban Development Sub-region around Fort McMurray to allow for growth. The lands belong to the Crown and the province cancelled any leases that weren’t compatible with urban development, such as oilsands leases, and compensated those holding the leases. “There’s a number of options that are on the table in a number of circumstances. Fort McMurray is quite unique. That’s not something that we’re even contemplating at this point. There has been no application made. I’m not suggesting there won’t be one made but there’s much to do before that,” Redford said. She added Lethbridge’s MLAs, Bridget Pastoor and Greg Weadick, have been vocal advocates for the community. [Emphasis added]

Premier promises new school in Lethbridge by by Caroline Zentner, February 12, 2014, Lethbridge Herald
The Holy Spirit Catholic school division got a longtime wish fulfilled Wednesday when Premier Alison Redford announced a new kindergarten to Grade 6 school will be built in Legacy Ridge in north Lethbridge. In a speech tailored to the students at St. Paul School, Redford talked about the need for a new school. “Lethbridge is a growing community. There’s lots of exciting people who are being born here, like you, and people are moving to the city from around the country and around the world. We need more buildings like this; we need more schools,” Redford said. “Today I’m here to tell you that we’re going to open another school and that’s going to be a K to 6 elementary school in north Lethbridge.” The new school is expected to add 450 spaces for children expected to enter school in the next couple of years. Redford said she expects the work will take some time but she looks forward to it going up very quickly. “We’re thankful for the contribution to improve the ability of Holy Spirit Catholic School Division to provide excellent education to our students,” said Brian Macauley, deputy superintendent of schools. The new school to be located in Legacy Ridge. It is part of the province’s promise to build 50 new schools and modernize 70 others. All will have been announced by the end of the month, she said. “Today is number 42. It’s exciting because it matters to Lethbridge,” Redford said. “We know that we need to invest in infrastructure now, that it’s an investment in the future and that if we can build this now we’re going to have lots of flexibility for school boards to offer innovative programming for kids.”

Terry O’Donnell, Holy Spirit board chairman, said the announcement was a welcome one. “We’ve turned students away from this school because it’s overcrowded,” he said. “It’s going to be a great help to us.” Earlier this month Holy Spirit learned it would receive funds to modernize and right size St. Michael’s School in Pincher Creek.

Kent Hehr, Liberal education critic, said Lethbridge residents shouldn’t get too excited. “This announcement today by the premier today and $1.64 may give parents and kids a cup of coffee at Tim Hortons but it won’t get them any closer to a school in Lethbridge,” he said. “Simply put, there’s no plan, no timeline and, most importantly, no money directed to the building of this school in Lethbridge.” Hehr said the announcement was more political theatre than anything and until Redford produces the money he remains skeptical. “The premier’s going to fail miserably when it comes to her promise of building 50 new schools before the next election. You heard it from me first. The premier will not build one school before the 2016 deadline,” he said. The new school announcement was disappointing to Brian Mason, NDP leader, not because a new school isn’t needed but because Galbraith School was once again left out of the picture. “As far as we’re aware they’ve announced all of the school modernizations that they’ve been planning,” he said. “The government has been ignoring this for a long time and we don’t know what the local MLA is doing but he should be standing up for this school and supporting the public board and the parents who need this facility to be modernized.” [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

School board in Lethbridge wants stakeholder status; School district opposes proposed oil-drilling and frac’ing project in west Lethbridge ]

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