Environmental group says some Albertans want tougher cold heavy oil regulations

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Ecojustice says some people in northwest Alberta have moved away from their homes because of health concerns about an extraction process called cold heavy oil production.

The group made the comments Monday as the Alberta Energy Regulator held a public meeting in Peace River to set the scope for an inquiry that will look into their concerns.

Karla and Alain Labrecque and their two children left their family farm almost two years ago after suffering headaches, sinus problems and muscle spasms.

“It simply became unbearable,” Karla Labrecque said. “We were genuinely concerned for the health of our children and had to leave.”

Ecojustice will represent the Labrecques at the inquiry.

The family has moved to Smithers, B.C.

Ecojustice says the cold heavy oil process involves heating the heavy oil and then storing it in tanks, venting noxious emissions into the surrounding area.

Alain Labrecque said the Alberta government has been slow to deal with their concerns.

“We were farming here successfully and the last thing we wanted to do was move,” he said.

“That’s why we spent two years trying to get changes done. And they are just too slow. And I’m glad we moved because it is not changing fast.”

The regulator has said all of the companies in the area have met regulatory standards and the inquiry is the next stage to finding a solution.

Ecojustice lawyer Melissa Gorrie said better regulations are need as more companies use the cold heavy oil process in northwestern Alberta.

“We see this inquiry as an important step and we hope that at the end of this process a regulatory framework is developed to the address the impacts associated with cold heavy oil production,” she said.