+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 3-05S

Sour Gas Setbacks and Notification

January 1, 2005
Expiry Date:
March 31, 2008
Active Status:
Industry and Resource Development
Vote Results:

WHEREAS the provincial government has delegated the approval process for sour gas wells, pipelines and facilities to the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board;AND WHEREAS sour gas (hydrogen sulphide) at certain levels is harmful to human health;AND WHEREAS oil company emergency response plans include references to local municipalities disaster plans;AND WHEREAS oil companies are not required by the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board to report leaks or blowouts of sour gas wells or pipelines to the local municipality unless the local municipality owns land in the Emergency Planning Zone;AND WHEREAS the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board has approved sour gas wells in close proximity to individual residences, hamlets, villages and towns within municipal district and county boundaries;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request the provincial government to direct the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board to review their setback distances on emergency planning zones for human health safety purposes, as well as their communication requirements to local municipalities for discharges, leaks, flaring and blowouts of any sour gas well, pipeline or facility;AND FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that emergency planning zone sizes not only include the factor of sour gas levels (strength of the gas) and access to the residents concerned, but also consider the number of evacuation routes available.

Member Background:

The intent of this resolution is to obtain a safe environmental distance for Alberta residents who, through no fault of their own, have potential health risks from sour gas wells, pipelines and facilities that have been approved by the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board. Our county has over 7,200 active oil wells and in the last year many of the new wells drilled have been sour gas wells with as high as 20% hydrogen sulphide.A secondary intent is to obtain a communication process between oil industry and municipalities whenever a leak, discharge, flaring or blowout occurs on a sour gas well, pipeline or facility.Brazeau County has had two sour gas wells placed in close proximity to our hamlets in Lodgepole and Rocky Rapids despite objections from residents of those hamlets. Our councillors have been receiving complaints from those residents and other individual residents who have sour gas wells in close proximity to their personal residences about the lack of response from the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board and the inability of their county councillors to influence this Board about the residents safety concerns.As well, our councillors have been frustrated by the lack of communication from oil companies over several discharges in the last year from sour gas wells within our county, and the lack of support from the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board that the County should be notified.

RMA Background:

Resolution 31-00F, endorsed at the fall 2000 convention, urges the provincial government to undertake a complete review of setback requirements from permanent dwellings, unrestricted country development, public facilities or urban centres, and also to review the monitoring of emissions being released in the air from sour gas wells, facilities and sour crude oil. The provincial response, which was accepted by the AAMDC, indicated that these issues would be dealt with by the EUB Advisory Committee on Public Safety and Sour Gas (PSSG) established in January 2000. The AAMDC is represented on this committee, which released a final report in December 2000. Among its 87 recommendations, the report called for: Greater emphasis by the EUB on strengthening relationships with all stakeholders, including municipalities (Recommendation 2) The EUB to increase and improve coordination between itself and Alberta Environment, other involved government departments and municipality and regional health officials (Recommendation 34) A review of the current criteria for establishing sour gas setbacks (Recommendation 53) and emergency planning zones (Recommendation 58), and Improved early coordination with other emergency responders, including municipal (Recommendation 57).The EUB accepted all 87 recommendations made by the PSSG and formed a Public Safety Implementation Team to address them. The PSSG releases implementation updates twice a year. With respect to setbacks, the PSSG wrote in its December 2004 report that a review will take place once new dispersion modelling/risk assessment frameworks are adopted by the EUB; a consultant has been contracted to examine the economic impact of Recommendation 53 and a multi-stakeholder committee has been formed.In October 2004, the AAMDC signed a protocol with the EUB with respect to Recommendation 34. The objective of the protocol is to facilitate municipal government input to the development of EUB policies, practices and requirements related to oil and gas development, such as setback requirements for wells, facilities and pipelines, emergency response plans and calculation of emergency response zones. A further objective is to improve coordination and cooperation, without precluding the EUB and individual municipalities from working directly with each other on matters of a local nature. Background information to the protocol indicates that the EUB will establish a process to facilitate local/regional dialogue with municipal authorities on matters relating to oil and gas operations in their areas.With respect to Recommendation 57, the latest PSSG report states that work is ongoing on an emergency management guide.


The AEUB has developed a hazard and risk dispersion modeling tool. This will be used to calculate emergency planning zones and will replace the existing approach. The anticipated review of setbacks is underway.

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