WHEREAS the Coalbed Methane/Natural Gas in Coal (CBM/NGC) Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Committee has identified a number of issues unique to CBM/NGC development, primary dealing with water; AND WHEREAS there is concern that intense CBM/NGC development poses an associated risk for cumulative impact to the present aquifers and future supply of water; AND WHEREAS the Department of Energy (DOE) is responsible for ensuring the development of Alberta’s resources is appropriate, environmentally sustainable and in the public interest; AND WHEREAS presently the Alberta government is reviewing regulations that govern operational CBM/NGC development to ensure they continue to balance economic benefits for Albertans while protecting the land, air and water resources;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Government of Alberta to establish an industry fund similar to the Orphan Well Fund to supply full monetary support to surface owners that suffer from damages to their groundwater resources as a result of CBM development.
Municipalities identify areas where existing rules and regulations can be improved to handle issues related to CBM/NGC. Specifically, aquifers and water supply have been affected by coalbed methane extractions. It is believed the existing regulatory framework should ensure adequate protection of Alberta non-saline water resources from any impact associated with the development of these operations.
On March 6, 2006, the Government of Alberta indicated its support for baseline testing to protect landowners prior to any coal bed methane drilling being undertaken on their land. The government has indicated this is part of its ongoing commitment to the Water For Life Strategy. The province has formed a Shallow Fracturing Steering Committee to deal with protection of aquifers during coal bed methane extraction by shallow gas well fracturing. Companies wanting to develop shallow coalbed methane must now offer to test rural Albertans’ water wells prior to drilling, according to a new standard developed by Alberta Environment in collaboration with the former Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (EUB). The Baseline Water-Well Testing for Coalbed Methane Operations standard requires companies to offer and complete the baseline testing before drilling begins. Recently, the Alberta Research Council completed an independent review of four water well complaints allegedly linked to coalbed methane activity. The results show the wells were not affected by coalbed methane development, but rather, the quality issues are due to naturally occurring methane or poor well construction or maintenance. The AAMDC will continue to monitor research such as this into the effects of coalbed methane development on water resources.