STOP: Stop Tar Sands Operations Permanently

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Area residents voice upgrader concerns

Posted by mhudema on June 27, 2008

Sturgeon County upgrader plans cause frustration for heartland farmers, residents

By Conal MacMillan
Record Staff
Friday June 27, 2008

Strathcona County resident Maureen Chichak was among several industrial heartland residents who joined together to form Concerned Citizens for Responsible Development, announced a press conference last week in Edmonton.

Conal MacMillan/Fort Record

Over 100 residents and activists began airing their concerns about a proposed Sturgeon County upgrader Monday as a public hearing into the Petro Canada Fort Hills project got underway in Fort Saskatchewan.

The capacity crowd at the Ross Creek Room in the Lakeview Inn and Suites spilled into the hallway as the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) started its public hearing into the upgrader project planned for a site north of Fort Saskatchewan.

Greenpeace and Sierra Club activists greeted the gathering outside with “Stelmach’s backyard = Cancer alley” signs and a Premier Ed Stelmach mask.

The Solicitor General’s Office also deployed two sheriffs to monitor the proceedings.

“There’s a lot of people here today but they’re well-behaved,” ERCB spokesman Bob Curran said.

About a dozen groups have registered to speak against the project at the public hearing. One of those groups is the Concerned Citizens for Responsible Development, a group that was announced last week in Edmonton. It consists of Sturgeon County and Strathcona County residents affected by the new upgraders proposed for or being constructed in the industrial heartland area north and east of Fort Saskatchewan.

In the hallway during a lunch recess, Concerned Citizens member and Sturgeon County farmer Wayne Groot said he’s concerned about the destruction the proposed project will wreak on the fertile farmland in the area.

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“We just think it’s wrong that they’re building these plants on prime agricultural land,” he said. “There’s no reason that they do.”

The planned projects could be moved 10 miles away to areas where there are poor soils, he said.

Groot has farmed potatoes on his land for 30 years. But Petro Canada bought 6,000 acres right next door a couple years ago and Suncor has also bought land nearby.

He said he’s already received an offer for his land from Suncor but he hasn’t taken it, nor does he plan on taking it.

The cumulative effects of all the proposed upgraders also has Groot concerned. The quest to get the upgraders built is going to prove too costly to the environment, he said.

“There’s no planning or very little planning. It’s just a gold-rush mentality and it’s going to create a lot of pain in the future,” he added.

Neil Camarta, Petro Canada vice president of oilsands operations, said his company is using the newest generation of energy-efficient technology available to them.

“We’re not using any fresh water; we’re using wastewater from the counties east of Edmonton,” he said. “We’re going to be (carbon dioxide) sequestration ready. We’re using the latest generation of (nitrogen oxide) reduction.”

But he said if the three-person ERCB panel requires tougher environmental standards in its decision on the project the company would have to evaluate the cost.

“At the end of the day, we have to take those back. Take a look at how much it costs to do all of that.”

The company pegged the cost of the project at $7 billion last year but are currently reviewing that estimate, Camarta said. The upgrader is expected to produce up to 140,000 barrels per day of synthetic crude oil.

The company will be ready to start construction this fall, if they receive approval.

The public hearing isn’t expected to wrap up until next Friday. The board will then have 90 days to make a decision on the project.

cmacmillan@bowesnet.com

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