Oil producer says homes near wells a mistake

968

Petrolia has given a local developer the green light to build 46 more homes in the Glenview subdivision. But an oil producer says the town is getting bad advice about laws which protect his oil field in the area.
Council approved a zoning change which allows land formerly considered major open space and environmental protection as residential at its council meeting Feb. 14.
The first homes in Glenview Estates were built in the 1990s around the historic golf course.
The latest subdivision is tucked between holes 15, 16 and 17 and a pond which is the backyard of the homes fronting on First Street. The developers hope to build 46 more homes around the golf course.
The developers have been working since 2019 on the project, trying to get the land zoned residential. First they had to solve a drainage problem, and also faced concerns from neighbours about homes being built in an area which was already home to wildlife.
They also faced objections from Walter Brand whose family has owned oil fields in the area for 80 years. He continues to operate the fields now and says according to regulations under the Oil, Gas and Salt Resources Act, housing can’t be built within 75 meters of his well. That could eliminated the construction of about four homes and forced the developer to move roads.
Council put off the decision in June so the developer could hire an expert to look at the issue. Engineer Jim McIntosh confirmed the act did prohibit development 75 meters from a well, but said the housing development could go ahead. McIntosh found nine oil wells within the property to be developed. Five are owned by Brand. But he doesn’t think those active wells should stop the project.
“The offset distances (75 meters) specified in the standards are for new oil and natural gas wells and infrastructure relative to other existing facilities,” McIntosh wrote in a letter to the developer. “Also discussed in my report was the historical status of the Petrolia oil field, which is silent on offsets of historical oil wells and related facilities from other infrastructure,” he added
“The act clearly exempts the construction within the subdivisions from being bound by any offset provisions within the regulations or standards with respect to any of the Walter Brand producing historical oil wells. As such, the house lots close to the Walter Brand property could be developed.”
McIntosh goes on to say the developer “may want to include fencing on the edge of the Walter Brand property to provide a visual barrier between the oil wells and structures within the new subdivisions…as a compromise” to Brand’s objections.
But Brand says the town and the developer are getting bad advice. While the Brand oil fields are historic, they are still active and must follow the Oil, Gas and Salt Resources Act – including the 75 meter setback.
“The Oil Gas and Salt Resources Act does not differentiate between old or new wells, historic or current. Any perceived difference is purely operational. A well, is a well, is a well,” Brand told council.
“I disagree totally with what the planner has written. I disagree with some of this. Dr. McIntosh has written.” Mayor Brad Loosley told Brand council members are not experts in the field and should follow an expert opinion. Brand disagreed.
“These are operational wells in production. You’ve made a mistake.”
Brand added; “I will pursue this.”