A 49-year-old rancher battling air pollution in Alberta’s Peace River country hopes a high profile meeting with four Alberta government ministries and two local MLAs will result in some concrete changes this Friday.
Carmen Langer, a former oil patch worker, has fought for years to get companies to control the venting of solution gases and toxic chemicals from hundreds of heated tanks full of bitumen dotted around Alberta’s third largest bitumen deposit.
Emissions from the tanks have sickened scores of residents and cattle in the community of Three Creek just 30 km northeast of Peace River for nearly a decade.
“It’s been hell for the last couple of years. I'm traumatized by all this. Industry people have threatened me,” he told The Tyee in a phone interview.
Last week Langer says a Grand Prairie RCMP officer and plainclothes investigator paid Langer a visit saying they had heard rumors about bomb threats to the oil sands industry.
“I said someone is blowing smoke up your ass and we talked it out,” said Langer. “These people even called my relatives in Calgary to see if I was crazy.”
(The RCMP now routinely visit farmers, ranchers and First Nations who have civilly complained about oil and gas operations in Alberta and BC).
Langer, who also solicited Greenpeace’s help to get the government’s attention, says he is not opposed to industry but wants proper regulations for thermal, in situ and cold recovery methods used to pump out bitumen in the region.
“I want a set of regulations for cold oil production and the venting of bitumen. They don’t exist now and we drafted a set. We want the government to adopt them. We’ve delivered the damn horse. All they have to do is get on it and ride it,” says Langer.
The 49 year old rancher is a leading and outspoken member of the Three Creek Emission Work Group which represents more than 40 residents in the area.
He says that both Shell and Devon have responded to community complaints by lowering the temperature in their bitumen storage tanks from 100 to 60 degrees. But there’s no law to force other companies to do the same and reduce air pollution.
Representatives from Alberta Energy, Environment, Health and Agriculture will be at the meeting.
The federal government has now identified Greenpeace, a civic organization that peacefully raised the profile of Langer’s case, as a “multi-issue extremist” group that represents a threat to Canadians.
Andrew Nikiforuk writes about energy issues for The Tyee and others.