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Lethbridge city council opposes oil and gas drilling within urban areas

LETHBRIDGE- City council said it will not support oil and gas production within Lethbridge city limits.

On Tuesday, they voted to oppose the operations, worried drilling activity could negatively impact the development of future urban areas.

Southern Alberta hasn’t seen as much drilling as other parts of the province, but with the valuable commodity, the city is worried even more interest will arise.

Seeing city land turned into a booming area for oil and gas has council concerned it will turn away potential urban development. With higher oil prices and bigger demand, southern Alberta is catching the attention of drilling companies.

The Bakken Formation which is found in parts of Canada and Montana also lays under areas of the city of Lethbridge. The 350 million-year-old formation holds about 500 billion barrels of oil, and has recently been deemed commercially viable.

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“They say it could rival similar fields is Saudi Arabia, so our expectation, certainly what we’re hearing is there is going to be more of this activity coming,” says Jeff Greene, Director of Planning and Development for the City of Lethbridge.

With that amount of accessible oil underneath the city, council is taking a stand on drilling in areas that will expand around the community, but say they understand the importance of the oil industry in Alberta.

Alderman Faron Ellis says, “we are making a statement we don’t support having drilling and then the production that comes from drilling for oil or gas within the city boundaries because it makes it more costly and complex to build the safe and efficient communities that we will be building over the next 20 or 30 years.”

Oil and gas resources are regulated by the provincial government, meaning money made by oil and gas production in the urban areas wouldn’t mean big bucks for the city. Municipal governments can make their opinion known, but have no control over where drilling happens.

“Ultimately the decision is more so provincial decision making as opposed to local decision making,” says Greene.

“The public, the province and the oil companies know that council is formally opposed to those activities occurring in our boundaries but recognizing we have no formal authority to stop these sorts of things, says Ellis.

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Ellis also says the government has sold lease rights that cover parts of the city of Lethbridge, and council is expecting to have applications brought forward to the energy resource conservation board in the near future.