Backgrounder
Proposed Shallow Gas Infill Development Project at CFB Suffield

The Project

Cenovus Energy Inc. (formerly EnCana Corporation) proposed to drill up to 1,275 new shallow gas wells within the boundary of the Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Suffield National Wildlife Area over a three-year period, essentially doubling the existing 1,154 gas wells installed before the area was declared a National Wildlife Area (NWA). The proposal would have included pipelines, access trails and other infrastructure. The NWA is located 50 km northwest of Medicine Hat in Alberta.

The Area

The CFB Suffield NWA was created in recognition of its ecological integrity and the diversity and abundance of native plant and animal species. It is one of the few large blocks of dry mixed-grass prairie remaining in Canada and accounts for about 30 per cent of all the protected grasslands in Alberta. The NWA encompasses 458 km² of prairie grassland and hosts over 1,100 catalogued species including 19 terrestrial species listed under the Species at Risk Act.

The Review Process

The Joint Review Panel was appointed on November 16, 2006, by the Minister of the Environment and the Chair of the former Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (predecessor to the Energy Resources Conservation Board), to conduct an assessment of the project. In addition to written submissions, a public hearing provided an opportunity for the Panel to receive and question the information presented by participants.

Public hearings were held from October 6 to 31, 2008 in Calgary and Medicine Hat. Participants who provided evidence at the hearing, in addition to the proponent, included the Government of Canada, the Environmental Coalition, the Suffield Environmental Advisory Committee, the Suffield Industry Range Control, members of the public, environmental groups, energy companies, and Panel experts. The Panel released its report on January 27, 2009.

Under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012, the Minister set a timeline for the Government decision for this project to be made by December 3, 2012.

Additional details and environmental assessment documents are available in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency registry, reference number 15620.

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