Joint Panel Issues Report Following Environmental Review of Proposed EnCana Shallow Gas Infill Development Project



    OTTAWA and CALGARY, Jan. 27 /CNW Telbec/ - The Joint Panel reviewing the
proposed EnCana Shallow Gas Infill Development project and the Alberta Energy
and Utilities Board Application No. 1435831 to drill three wells in the
Canadian Forces Base Suffield National Wildlife Area in Alberta, announced
today that it is submitting its report and recommendations to the federal
Minister of the Environment.
    The Joint Review Panel is an independent body, mandated by the federal
Minister of the Environment and the former Alberta Energy and Utilities Board
to assess the environmental effects of the proposed project and to make a
decision on the Application filed by EnCana for three wells within the
National Wildlife Area.
    The Panel has concluded that certain key requirements must be met before
the proposed project or a variation of it could proceed. Failure to address
these requirements would likely result in significant adverse effects on
certain species at risk and consequently interfere with the conservation of
wildlife. In particular, the Panel recommends that the identification of
critical habitat for five species listed on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk
Act be finalized. The Panel also recommends that once this critical habitat is
finalized, the proposed project facilities should not be located in the
defined critical habitat for these five species, unless otherwise permitted
under the Species at Risk Act.
    The Panel also concluded that the Suffield Environmental Advisory
Committee, established under the 1975 Agreement allowing gas production in the
present-day National Wildlife Area, is not able to oversee a development of
this magnitude at present. Its role must be clarified and it must be resourced
adequately by the governments of Canada and Alberta to be able to ensure
proper regulatory oversight of the proposed project.
    Regarding the three-well application by EnCana, the Panel finds that the
application lacks complete and up-to-date environmental information for the
proposed drilling sites. Given this shortcoming, the Panel finds that it is
unable to fully assess the potential environmental impacts of the three
proposed wells, as required by Section 3 of the Energy Resources Conservation
Act. The Panel therefore denies the application.
    The report follows a public hearing held from October 6 to October 31,
2008 that took place in Calgary and Medicine Hat, Alberta. During the
proceedings the Panel received submissions and heard presentations from the
proponent, federal and provincial government agencies, environmental groups,
individuals and organizations interested in the project.
    The report, which includes an executive summary, can be found on the
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency Web site at www.ceaa.gc.ca registry #
05-05-15620, the Energy Resources Conservation Board Web site at www.ercb.ca
or the Panel Web site at www.SuffieldReview.ca.
    EnCana Corporation proposes to drill, over a three-year period, up to
1275 new shallow gas wells within the boundary of the Canadian Forces Base
Suffield National Wildlife Area, located in Southeastern Alberta,
approximately 50 km Northwest of Medicine Hat and 250 km Southeast of Calgary.
The project is in addition to the existing natural gas development activities
within the National Wildlife Area and includes the physical works and the
activities associated with the construction, operation, decommissioning,
abandonment and reclamation of the shallow gas wells, pipelines, and
supporting infrastructure.
    EnCana Corporation has also applied pursuant to section 2.020 of the Oil
and Gas Conservation Regulations for licenses to drill three wells at surface
locations in Legal Subdivision (LSD) 11, Section 28, Township 15, Range 6,
West of the 4th Meridian, LSD 13-28-15-6W4M, and LSD 15-28-15-6W4M in the
National Wildlife Area. The purpose of the proposed wells would be to obtain
gas production from the Milk River formation, Medicine Hat sands, and Second
White Speckled shale. The proposed wells would not contain hydrogen sulphide.




For further information:

For further information: Media may contact: Lucille Jamault, Senior
Communications Advisor, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, (613)
957-0434


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