Coal bed concerns catch industry’s ear

Coal bed concerns catch industry’s ear by Tony Seskus, Calgary Herald, November 16, 2006.
At an energy conference Wednesday, the president of the Canadian Society for Unconventional Gas said the petroleum sector must commit to doing business in a way that recognizes and deals with the concerns of residents living near these wells. “And that doesn’t mean throw them a bunch of money and say ‘Go away,'” Mike Dawson, manager of coal gas projects for Advantage Energy Income Fund, said in an interview. “If we don’t do a good job of this, then we have failed — and we are going to be punished by not having access to the resource.” In an address during the first day of the conference, which drew hundreds of energy executives, industry players and landowners, Dawson added: “We, the industry, have to walk the walk.” Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers president Pierre Alvarez agreed, saying oil companies must continue with efforts to address landowner issues. Though industry and regulators are responding, they want to do better, he said. “There’s no denying that there are legitimate concerns that a lot of people have,” Alvarez said after speaking to the conference. … Alberta Environment has investigated 55 complaints from residents who suspected coal bed methane activity had caused problems with their well water. All but 10 cases have been resolved, with no evidence that CBM affected their water. Still, hundreds of rural residents have flocked to town hall meetings to learn about coal bed methane activity. Dawson said companies are working hard to build and maintain relationships with rural residents. But Don Bester, a landowner advocate and farmer from central Alberta, said not all companies are equal when it comes to dealing with rural residents. Some energy firms take time to educate and work with farmers about development before its starts, whereas others are “just full steam ahead.” “Certain companies are doing very responsible jobs, but then you’ve got the big boys . . . that aren’t,” Bester said at the conference.

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