Baytex Energy says residents near Peace River are getting in the way of changes to how it handles emissions from one of it its oil plant-- changes that were recommended after health complaints from nearby homes. 

The Alberta Energy Regulator has been investigating complaints that gas emitted from the company's heavy oil operations were giving people headaches, nausea and breathing problems.

In a report released Monday, it recommended that Baytex and other companies start capturing gas using vapour recovery units (VPR).

Now, the company says people who live near the plant are opposed to the use of VPRs.

“Some of the discussions and consultations we've had to date with some of the residents, they have some concerns with respect to our proposed plan,” said Andrew Loosely, director of stakeholder relations for Baytex,.

“And as such, there’s still ... their blanket objection to some of our activities in that area.”

Lawyer Keith Wilson represents most of the seven families who claim the health problems caused by a Baytex facility forced them to abandon their homes

He says people aren’t opposed to the use of VPRs, a fact he stressed to the AER in a letter sent three weeks ago.

Instead, they are concerned because Baytex is only offering to capture some of the vapour emitted during the process -- not the more toxic gases emitted from the top of the tanks, which is still allowed under current regulations.

"They have the right to continue to open vent,”Wilson said.

“One of the other significant things that comes from the public inquiry report, is that it confirms that it has been a regulatory gap, There has been a regulatory gap that has allowed Baytex to do this open venting."

Environment Minister Robin Campbell won’t discuss the report until the AER responds to the recommendations in mid-April.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Diana McQueen as Alberta environment minister. The current minister is Robin Campbell. McQueen was named energy minister in December.
    Apr 01, 2014 9:42 PM MT