For Immediate Release
Conservation Groups Call EnCana’s Impact Assessment
Ottawa (July 30, 2007) A coalition of conservation groups today has declared an environmental impact statement (EIS) by EnCana Corporation “full of omissions” and “completely unsuitable” in an assessment submitted last Friday, July 27 to a government-appointed panel tasked with reviewing the oil company’s proposal. EnCana contends its plans to drill 1,275 gas wells into one of Canada’s most sensitive National Wildlife Areas will have “an insignificant impact” on local wildlife.
“EnCana has woefully underestimated the environmental effects of gas development inside the Suffield National Wildlife Area,” said Daniel Casselman of Nature Canada. “This so-called assessment barely attempts to measure the true impact their drilling operation would have on one of the last remaining pieces of unploughed prairie grassland in Canada.”
In formal comments released today, the conservation groups identified roughly 250 instances in EnCana’s report where key information was either omitted or ignored. In particular, the energy giant’s impact statement paid scant attention to legal protections for wildlife encoded within the Species at Risk Act, the Canada Wildlife Act, and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
"The National Wildlife Area and the Environmental Assessment process have been put in place to ensure that species at risk and the endangered grassland ecosystem of Suffield are protected,” said Cliff Wallis, Past-President of the Alberta Wilderness Association. “EnCana is asking Canadians to put their faith in the corporation without providing the substantive documentation required to back up what they are recommending. EnCana’s history of environmental degradation and non-compliance in the Suffield Military Reserve and the recently released impact statement demonstrates a callous disregard for the protective intent of the National Wildlife Area.”
“They should no longer be permitted to operate in this area, let alone drill another 1275 wells,” Wallis said.
EnCana concluded that the construction and operation of 1,275 gas wells and the associated infrastructure will have no significant impacts on federally or provincially listed endangered species like the burrowing owl, tiny cryptanthe and Ord’s kangaroo rat, all of which live inside Suffield National Wildlife Area.
“If EnCana had identified some of the significant impacts that will stem from this proposed development, Canadians would have some reassurance that EnCana understands and respects the significance of this endangered environment and the environmental assessment process,” said Sandra Foss of the Federation of Alberta Naturalists. “EnCana clearly doesn’t get it and is making a mockery of the environmental review process.”
Several concerned federal government agencies, including Environment Canada and the Department of National Defence, are expected to release responses to EnCana’s impact statement. Public hearings into the proposed gas development inside this federally protected area could potentially begin as early as this October.
The Suffield National Wildlife Area is a 458 km2 protected area located inside the 2,690 km2 Canadian Forces Base Suffield near Medicine Hat, Alberta. The area is an internationally significant grassland encompassing fragile sand dunes and sand plains. It provides secure habitat for more than 1,100 native prairie species, including 16 federal Species at Risk and 78 provincially listed “at risk” species.
The following non-profit and charitable conservation organizations are concerned about the species and ecosystems of Suffield, and are working together to protect it: Nature Canada, Alberta Wilderness Association, Federation of Alberta Naturalists, Grasslands Naturalists, Southern Alberta Group for the Environment and World Wildlife Fund Canada. These groups are working with a team of experts in the fields of ecology, biodiversity, conservation policy and socioeconomics to objectively review EnCana’s environmental assessment.
Cliff Wallis, Alberta Wilderness Association: 403-271-1408, cell: 403-607-1970, www.albertawilderness.ca