September 28th, 2021

CP Rail appeals order to deal with local gas well

By COLLIN GALLANT on June 4, 2021.

A view from the Sixth Avenue trail provides an outline of the area where natural gas well known as "WX0000225" is located. The News has learned that Canadian Pacific Railway is appealing an order from Alberta Energy Regulator that places responsibility for remediating the well on the rail company.--News Photo Collin Gallant

Canadian Pacific Railways and the City of Medicine Hat are disputing which is ultimately responsible for an abandoned gas well near S. Railway Street that is leaking methane.

Neither the company nor the city provided comment to the News about the issue that is currently part of an appeal hearing process staged by the Alberta Energy Regulator.

Four years ago, the AER named the well, known by the early 1900s-styled licence No. WX0000225, in a draft report on urban wells in the province that required high-level observation and potential remediation work.

Four of the five wells named were located in central areas of Medicine Hat, where it was common in the 1890s for private citizens to drill their own personal wells. Later the city offered wells near business plots to entice industries to the city.

Over time however, the city took over regulatory control of wells that had no legal owner, closed in many of the crude set-ups, and monitored all known wells as part of general operations.

After the 2017 report, the city took high-profile action at several sites to mitigate concentrations of methane, at the same time assuring citizens that migrating gas caused no health concerns or danger of combustion.

Little was discussed publicly about well No. WX0000225, though, and last December the Alberta Energy Regulator issued an environmental protection order to Canadian Pacific Railways naming the company as responsible for the well.

It required CP Rail to take remedial action for the well, but that was appealed on Jan.13, 2021, and in April the AER announced the appeal hearing would proceed.

Interested parties had until May 25 to register to participate and until June 1 to submit written arguments for the hearing, which has not yet been assigned a date.

City of Medicine Hat officials told the News it is policy to not comment on ongoing legal matters.

The AER also provided no additional information. Requests to CP’s media office were not returned by press time.

No obvious above ground action has taken place for well WX0000225, which would be located somewhere near a series of commercial strip properties north of Hill Road, according to the land description and the AER’s abandoned well map,.

The CPR’s roundhouse constructed in 1906 in the area was torn down in 1987 to make way for the realignment and development of Kingsway Ave.

Other well sites denoted in the 2017 urban well report were near the Veiner Centre, in a downtown alleyway behind Fifth Avenue Memorial Church, and on S. Railway Street near the Second Street Intersection.

The last well was privately drilled at some point near 1900, and eventually required the building to be demolished and lot left vacant through a partnership with Alberta’s Orphan Well Association.

Venting apparatus was installed at two other locations, as well as a site near the Hockey Hounds Arena in Crescent Heights where a capped and buried well was determined to have an elevated risk for gas mitigation.

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