Medicine Hat and oil company argue against Species at Risk ruling

A federal emergency order to protect the Greater Sage Grouse from extinction has become a point of contention for some elected officials oil companies and environmental groups. The order issued in December 2013 under the federal Species at Risk Act only came about after EcoJustice sued the federal government to protect the endangered prairie bird. Now the city of Medicine Hat and oil company LGX filed an application on January 4 to postpone the protection order and renegotiate protective terms that presently apply to about 1700 square kilometres of the bird’s range in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The two groups argue LGX’s oil extraction operations will be unfairly hampered under the protection order and that restrictions will cost affected oil companies $80 million though the federal government has estimated the order will cost local industry $10 million over 10 years.

Alberta Wilderness Association president Cliff Wallis has entered the debate arguing the order must go ahead as planned if Canada is to save the estimated 90 remaining sage grouse from eradication.

In a January 6 media release Wallis said “while we understand the frustration over some provisions of the emergency order and the lack of clarity in its implementation now is not the time to postpone that implementation…. Postponing the emergency order would be counterproductive.”