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Victory for Marie Lake Residents: Seismic Testing Halted

Alberta government halts plans to allow seismic testing on Marie Lake
Wed Sep 5, 8:31 AM

EDMONTON (CP) - The Alberta government has halted a plan to allow controversial seismic testing on Marie Lake.

Premier Ed Stelmach announced Tuesday night that there were too many safety questions about the technology involved in drilling for oilsands under water.

Calgary-based OSUM - Oilsands Underground Mining Corp. - had been granted permission earlier this year to conduct tests which would have included the firing of loud air guns in the water and the blasting of dynamite on shore.

Residents of the northeast Alberta lake were against the testing because they worried it would kill fish and ruin the ecosystem.

Stelmach says the government's old policies weren't up to handling underwater drilling for bitumen, and he says he has asked for a new policy to be developed.

"It hasn't been tried under a lake ever in Alberta." Stelmach said. "I'm not comfortable with the process that we have."

Don Savard of the Marie Lake Air and Watershed Society called the announcement "a wonderful day for Albertans."

"It's not iron-clad, but I believe personally that Mr. Stelmach has listened to Albertans," Savard said. "Maybe Albertans are getting the government back."

Last month, more than 100 people took to boats on Marie Lake to protest the testing.

The province had imposed strict rules on the tests, and Ted Morton, Alberta's sustainable resources development minister, tried to reassure residents, saying the seismic tests would be safe.

But even Denis Ducharme, a fellow Progressive Conservative MLA who represents the area, blasted Morton and called the decision a bad move by a rookie minister.

Stelmach said Tuesday that Morton had done nothing wrong, and had been following procedure.

"The minister followed the rules," he said. "There were questions unanswered. This is brand new technology."

"We want to ensure that it's safe."

Alberta Liberal leader Kevin Taft said that he suspected Stelmach's decision had more to do with talk of a looming provincial election.

"We don't know how long this is. Is this a temporary stay or is this going to is it going to be permanent?" Taft asked.

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