Drilling dispute in wildlife area may stretch into 2008

Drilling dispute in wildlife area may stretch into 2008 by Canadian Press, August 20, 2007
CALGARY A long-simmering Prairie standoff between one of Canada’s largest energy companies and the military over a tract of grassland is set to drag well into next year with both sides claiming to have the best interests of the delicate landscape at heart. At issue is whether EnCana Corp. (TSX:ECA) will be allowed to go after an estimated 125 billion cubic feet of natural gas that lies beneath the Suffield National Wildlife Area in southeastern Alberta. But that requires drilling nearly 1,300 new wells on a unique corner of Canada that’s still home to hundreds of rare Prairie plants and animals including 13 federal species at risk such as the burrowing owl and the Ord’s kangaroo rat. … Environmentalists are not impressed with the company’s 2,000-page environmental impact statement and want the review panel to recommend an end to further industrial activities. EnCana has so far received more than 800 requests for more information from interested parties – a number that the company admits is both overwhelming and unexpected. Yet the Calgary-based energy giant’s biggest adversary in recent years has been the Canadian military and specifically the base commander at CFB Suffield – a massive 2,700-square- kilometre piece of property northwest of Medicine Hat that includes the wildlife area. … “To be honest with you, my predecessor Dan Drew has quite frankly re-established the need for us to get more involved and more proactive. He was very vocal about it and he put us back on the right road.” … EnCana, too, sees itself as an environmental steward. “We think this is an important hearing for ourselves and frankly for the country, because it’s a significant amount of clean-burning natural gas,” said executive vice-president Gerry Protti. “And it’s in an area that’s sensitive, where public expectations have increased over time and we want to make sure we do it right.” … The company believes it has made great progress in baseline mapping techniques that help determine optimal environmental position for wells and pipelines. [Emphasis added]

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