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Lethbridge residents call for urban drilling ban

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Petition delivery

A petition opposed to drilling within the city limits of Lethbridge, Alberta and signed by more than 11,000 residents -- about one out of every eight people in the city -- has been delivered to the Provincial Legislature in Edmonton.

Organized by the group No Drilling Lethbridge, the petition calls on the Government of Alberta to introduce legislation that would prohibit oil and gas drilling development within the City of Lethbridge.

The petition delivery is just the latest step in a grassroots campaign that has taken off in Lethbridge since plans came to light last year that Calgary-based Goldenkey Oil Inc. planned to drill three exploratory wells in the southwest part of the city. It was revealed earlier this year that Goldenkey also holds leases issued by Alberta Energy for the mineral rights to 23 square kilometres under Lethbridge.

Goldenkey Oil has not yet applied to the Alberta Energy Regulator to drill the three wells, and the company's lease is set to expire on March 24 unless it is renewed. In addition to the petition, No Drilling Lethbridge has been putting direct pressure on Alberta Energy Minister Diana McQueen to cancel Goldenkey's lease, citing Section 8.1 of the Province of Alberta Mines and Minerals Act, which states that the Minister of Energy may cancel an agreement where any exploration for or development of the mineral to which the agreement relates is not in the public interest.

Opposition to the drilling in Lethbridge is widespread. According to the Citizen Society Research Lab at Lethbridge College, the vast majority of Lethbridge residents are opposed to oil and gas drilling within the city limits. "Fully three-quarters of all Lethbridge residents (75.8 per cent) are opposed [and] 61.1 per cent are strongly opposed" to the plans. On the city's west side, where Goldenkey Oil plans to drill, 81.6 per cent of residents are opposed.

Public opposition has also been voiced by Lethbridge's mayor and the entire city council, the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce, the Lethbridge School District #51 Board of Trustees, the Holy Spirit Catholic School Board, and the Lethbridge and District Association of REALTORS.

The issue has once again brought to light the fact that the Government of Alberta's does not have a specific policy about drilling in urban areas. Opposition to similar plans in Calgary in 2012 and 2013 led to pledges by then-Energy Minister Ken Hughes that the government would review rules around urban drilling and would "complete a review of the rules surrounding energy development in urban areas by the end of 2013." Almost a month ago, Minister McQueen again reiterated that a new urban drilling policy would be introduced "within the next few weeks." However, the long-promised policy has still not seen the light of day.

The Alberta New Democrat opposition has come out publicly in favour of an urban drilling ban throughout the province, as have the Alberta Liberals. The Wildrose party has called for the much-maligned Alberta Energy Regulator to hold a public hearing on the issue in Lethbridge.

For more details about the campaign, visit No Drilling Lethbridge.

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