Imperial Oil leaking natural gas wells a nightmare for homeowners near Edmonton

Leaking natural gas wells a nightmare for homeowners near Edmonton by Darcy Henton, Calgary Herald, April 11, 2011
A developer who noticed gas bubbling up in a puddle near a new school in a small town south of Edmonton sounded the alarm…. “Nobody will admit nothing, but we’re all suspicious,” says the 87-year-old Second World War navy veteran. “Somebody had to know about it.” He suggests it is more than a coincidence the house beside the well was the only one in the subdivision that didn’t have a basement.

“We’re left in limbo with a half-destroyed street,” complains Ralph Olson, 52, who lives one house down from the site. “It’s extremely miserable for those of us who are caught in it. It’s difficult to sell your home when you have to tell people that sometime in the next year or two there’s a drilling rig going in and the home next door is going to be demolished.”

But Brown says the inconvenience he and his family face is nothing compared to the disruption caused to his neighbours who were forced from their homes. Frustrated holdout homeowner Trevor Smith, 42, has turned the matter over to his lawyer. He says the compensation offered by Imperial Oil will leave him either with a bigger mortgage or less house. … “It looks like we live next to a concentration camp,” he says. The spotlight may be on Calmar now, but he warns that other Albertans could find themselves in similar circumstances if the province doesn’t take action to ensure this doesn’t happen again. “As more development occurs this will happen more and more,” says Smith. “It’s going to be very scary in Alberta in 50 years.” …

The Calmar controversy shocked Premier Ed Stelmach who vowed to find out “where the breakdown was,”… A controversial aspect of the amendments is the requirement for a 20-metre by 35-metre setback surrounding the abandoned well. Land rights lawyer Keith Wilson says such a setback would perpetually impede a landowner’s ability to develop his land and would not compensate him for that land-use restriction. Once the well is officially sealed, lease payments to landowners cease. The setback also reduces the value of the land if it is sold, Wilson says. “I haven’t seen anything about how they will address that and they should, or they should give landowners a choice of not having wells on their land,” he says. [Emphasis added]

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