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Premier Clark promises investigation of health impacts of oil industry!

March 27, 2011

In 2010 West Coast gave Peace Environment and Safety Trustees Society (PESTS) a grant to hire Devlin Gailus Lawyer, Tim Thielmann, to help the group petition the government for an investigation into the impacts of health by the oil and gas industry impacts. Thielmann worked with students at the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre to write a detailed letter requesting such an investigation. The Ministry of Health had recently declined to conduct such an investigation, but now it appears that this important work may be paying off. 

The Alaska Highway Times is reporting that Premier Christy Clark and Health Minister Mike De Jong have agreed to hold an investigation into the health effects of oil and gas development near residences.

… Clark did promise … to grant the Peace Environment and Safety Trustees Society their request for an investigation into the air and water effects of the oil and gas industry.

PESTS member Lois Hill put the question to Clark, saying that there is a big difference between the oil and gas industry in areas where people don’t live and areas like the South and North Peace where farmers have lived for generations.

“We appreciate the economic activity the industry has brought to the area, but there has never been an assessment of the cumulative health impacts it’s having on people and the environment,” said Hill.

“I think that’s a legitimate request, a fair question and a reasonable expectation,” said de Jong, who suggested getting experts from UNBC and Northern Lights College to assist in studying air, water and soil qualities.

He promised to prepare a report that Hill and her neighbours could have confidence in to strike the necessary balance between residents and agriculture, and the economic benefits the oil and gas sector bring to the province.

The residents of the Peace River region have to deal with potentially lethal sour gas wells in close proximity to houses, schools and daycares. A year and a half ago a dramatic leak of sour gas from an Encana pipeline demonstrated the potential for a serious accident and the inability of a major oil company to respond quickly to such incidents.  
 
We’re waiting for details of the proposed investigation – who will head it, its scope, etc. – but on its face this announcement is very good news.   
 
By Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer