Premier reveals massive projects for capital region
A second wave in Alberta’s energy boom will soon be hitting the eastern shores of Edmonton, bringing with it thousands of jobs and growing concerns over an emerging environmental toll.
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Billions of dollars in major projects are on the horizon at "Upgrader Alley," a refinery complex in neighbouring Strathcona County that will be rolling out expansions to bitumen processing in the next few years, says Premier Ed Stelmach.
Critics have long complained Albertans are missing out on the spin-off industry since the oilsands product is currently piped south to the United States to be refined. But new upgraders near the city will be part of the province’s "value-added" strategy this year to expand current energy revenues, Stelmach said.
In an interview with Metro, the premier revealed an overhead map of the city’s eastern outskirts, displaying large sections of land either purchased or being developed for the construction of bitumen upgraders.
"This is just a quick snapshot of this mass of development," he said, pointing to the blueprints. "It’s huge."
New Democrat critic David Eggen said the emerging upgrader boom is welcome news for the capital region, but he warned of moving too quickly and therefore igniting an inflationary crisis.
In the last few years, a "gold rush" mentality over oilsands development transformed the province into one of the most expensive places to live in Canada, which should never be repeated, he said.
"We don’t want a mirror image of that scenario unfolding with new upgraders here in our backyard," he said. "We want to make sure we plan ahead and build them properly."
A cumulative assessment on the environmental impact of the new upgraders, including their enormous water use and air pollution, should also be conducted as soon as possible, he said.
But the premier stressed the capital region’s growth management plan will have to be studied by a new board overseeing the Edmonton area, announced last month.
The regional board has sweeping powers over land-use issues, including transit systems and infrastructure, and Stelmach said he hopes developing the upgraders can be staggered to avoid a labour shortage.