Goldenkey Oil Inc. may make its Alberta Energy Regulator application as early as January, as the Calgary-based company wants to drill three exploratory wells within Lethbridge city limits.
Not everyone in Lethbridge has been happy with the proposal, initially made public last month, and it has since set off major opposition. Thursday evening at the Lethbridge Lodge, Goldenkey had its much-anticipated community consultation and open house.
“We are hearing some favourable comments, but there are some concerns surrounding hydraulic fracturing, water usage, environmental protection, proximity; those sorts of things are becoming very, very aware and clear,” said Tim Robillard, director of stakeholder engagement and regulatory for Standard Land and a Goldenkey representative.
“There’s a reason why we call this a community consultation event. We do want to share project information that we have as of today, moreover we want to ensure that we solicit and get as much good public input as we can. By good, I mean anything and everything.”
Earlier Thursday, Shannon Phillips, senior policy analyst for the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), gave some input when she provided The Herald with a document outlining Goldenkey’s ownership structure — a report claiming nearly 60 per cent of Goldenkey’s interests are based and controlled in China.
“We at the Federation of Labour support resource development when it is in Albertans’ best interest. But we have yet to see from Goldenkey a case of how much employment this is going to generate. We suspect very little,” Phillips said.
“First of all, the Albertans in question don’t want it.
“Second of all, we have some questions about the ownership of the company and whether or not they do in fact have Albertans’ and the people of Lethbridge best interests in mind.”
“The CFO of Goldenkey is here today and he’s confirmed to me that the shareholdings of Goldenkey Oil Inc. are 100 per cent Canadian-owned,” Robillard said at the consultation when asked about the ownership.
Learning garden grows
Summer is over and the vegetables are ready to enjoy. But there’s an extra harvest this year at the city’s Interfaith Food Bank.
Volunteers, board members and staff are celebrating the success of their new “learning garden” and its open-door approach to community gardening in Lethbridge.
Danielle McIntyre, executive director at the Interfaith Food Bank, says the raised garden plots — built earlier this year alongside its northside office and warehouse — have produced good crops despite June’s downpours.
They’ve also provided fresh vegetables for Interfaith’s instructional Chinook Country Kitchen, a place where immigrants and others can learn to cook healthy, balanced meals for their families. Then they’re able to take the meals home.
As well, McIntyre says, the plots have become a place to learn how easily people in southern Alberta can grow their own ingredients for many of those meals.
“Our families tend to like the familiar vegetables,” so there were plenty of onions, carrots, peppers and the like in this fall’s harvest.
But participants also learned how to grow and use herbs in their meals, she says. And they had an opportunity to raise and cook something many hadn’t tried before — this year, eggplant.
U of L looks at cuts
The mood is strained and people are on edge as the University of Lethbridge continues its efforts to balance its budget in the wake of severe cuts in funding from the province.
The province cut funding to post-secondary institutions by 7.3 per cent in its spring budget. As a result, the U of L had to find $11.8 million in cuts. Some reductions, such as a voluntary academic staff retirement program and leaving positions vacant, have already been implemented. Budget sub-committees looked for further reductions and their recommendations focus on revenue generation, reorganization and administrative cuts. Those reports were recently circulated.
“It’s very tense. We’re trying to manage it as best as we possibly can but it’s difficult. There has to be some very difficult decisions made,” said Nancy Walker, vice-president of finance and administration.
The U of L still needs to trim $2.6 million from the current fiscal year. Because no funding increases are expected next year either the U of L also needs to find another $6 million in savings next year. The budget reductions are taking place throughout the university.
The U of L and its faculty have approved a one-year agreement that will see a one per cent rollback in base salary and no cost-of-living increase although previously negotiated merit and career progress increases are still in place. The net result is a slight increase on average.
Earlier this summer the U of L announced Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) would face 11 definite layoff days as part of its cost-saving measures. The union has filed a grievance.
“We’re hoping to get into discussions with AUPE to see if we can resolve the grievance before it goes to arbitration,” Walker said.
Senior administrators, administrative professionals and exempt support staff will have their salaries frozen and no career progress, cost of living or merit payments will be made for a year ending June 30, 2014.
Gun scare prompts fear
A class project involving a toy gun prompted panic, fear and lockdowns at three westside schools.
Four students at Catholic Central High School West were apparently using a large black-painted toy gun as a prop to film a scene for a new media course in a field outside the school, according to other students. Around 2 p.m. Oct. 23, someone spotted them carrying what looked like a weapon and called 911, prompting a police investigation and roughly 20-minute lockdowns at CCH and neighbouring Chinook High School and G.S. Lakie Middle School.
“I was terrified along with my other classmates,” said Grade 10 CCH student Darin Bertschi, who was in class during the lockdown. “At first, I thought it was fake but then a couple of my classmates were getting text messages saying what was happening and then it became more real,” he added. “They were saying there’s people in the field between Chinook and CCH with a big gun, there’s four of them with a camera.”
Later, once police determined there was no threat, students were ushered into the cafeteria, where officers showed them the gun and explained that it wasn’t real. Afterwards, many students laughed about the whole thing, but Bertschi said he was glad authorities took it seriously at the time.
Biofuel growth here
Lethbridge is about to become a hub for biofuel activity in Canada.
Those at the Business of the Year Awards Oct. 22 learned Kyoto Fuels Corp. just began production a few days ago, after a long process. The company’s president and CEO, Kelsey Prenevost, the guest speaker at the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce and Business Development Bank of Canada event, broke the news as he spoke about Kyoto’s roadmap to success.
“It’s now operational. It just took us 10 years to get there, but we’re finally operational.”
What will eventually become a facility capable of producing 66 million litres of biofuel a year, at a rate of just under 200,000 litres a day, Kyoto Fuels Corp. will boast the largest biodiesel plant in Canada. With the Lethbridge Biogas project, Prenevost said that positions the city to hold a very unique designation.
“We are a biotech centre now with both of those projects on the go,” he said, as government requirements for companies to include biofuels in their products has created an untapped market here in Canada.
“We need 600 million litres in Canada, and we’re nowhere close to that now,” he said.