Sour gas issue in southeast Sask becomes political

During question period Wednesday, NDP rural affairs critic Cathy Sproule asked why the government did not disclose information on sour gas emissions to the public ahead of a CBC iTeam report.

Minister of Economy questioned in the legislature following CBC iTeam story on deadly sour gas emissions

Minister of the Economy Bill Boyd told reporters Wednesday he is prepared to ramp up inspections at sour gas well sites if the problem persists. (Aldo Columpsi/CBC)

Saskatchewan's Minister of the Economy, Bill Boyd, was quizzed Wednesday about how officials are monitoring emissions of sour gas at well sites across the province following a CBC iTeam report about serious concerns associated with the sites.

Boyd said the province is seeing more sour gas than ever before and that is why he is ramping up the number of inspections at well sites.

"We are certainly concerned about the issue, that's why we do the number of inspections we do do here," said Boyd.

On Tuesday, CBC's iTeam reported that 43 facilities the ministry tested in southeast Saskatchewan were emitting hydrogen sulphide (H2S) at levels 30 times greater than the lethal levels.

The province has received numerous health complaints from the public, including a report of dead cows linked to H2S emissions.

During question period Wednesday, NDP rural affairs critic Cathy Sproule asked the minister why the government did not disclose the information to the public ahead of the media report.

The province plans to inspect 10,000 sour gas wells in 2015. (CBC)
Boyd didn't say why the province didn't reveal the emissions problem when it first realized the scale of the problem.

However, he did say it is an issue his ministry is taking seriously.

"We are certainly prepared to ramp up even further our inspections, if we feel it necessary," Boyd said.

He acknowledged there were not enough inspections being done in the past.

The province has 16 full time inspectors responsible for inspecting the wells. It has committed to assigning four or five more employees to enforcement.

According to Boyd, the province plans to inspect 10,000 wells this year, as part of its inspection sweep.

Boyd also told reporters an oil well site in southeast Saskatchewan was shut down Wednesday for releasing what are called "fugitive" emissions of methane gas, which contains H2S.

An investigation was launched following a number of odour complaints from the public. The province did not say which oil well it was. 

Assistant Deputy minister Ed Dancsok was also at the legislature Wednesday and noted it was the first oil well shut in this year.

When wells are shut in, they can re-open once the company proves the deficiencies have corrected.


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