“Coming into Being”

Diamond Valley Gas Co-op

On January 18, 1968, W.T. Burns, Charles Skocdopole and Robert Hubl were having coffee at a local lunch counter when the subject of natural gas arose. A meeting of interested persons was held at the Gaetz Community Centre on February 28, 1968. Charles Skocdopole was nominated president, W.T. Burns was vice president and Robert Hubl was named secretary treasurer. Directors were: R.H. Louis, Bruce Hagerman, Jack Sheppard, Dave Pearson, Vern Nelson, R.A. Stainiforth, Jim Savage and Donald Hansen. The boundaries were set as Highway 2 on the east, Red Deer River on the south, Clearwater River on the west, Highway 11 on the north. However, a 2 mile buffer zone was established if need be. The name “Diamond Valley Gas Co-op” was chosen, as this seemed to be the district with the most interest.

A meeting on August 26, 1968, saw incorporation of the Co-op with the Corporation branch of the Provincial Government, with Mr. Herb Warner being the representative. The contract was signed between Apache oil and the Co-op to purchase gas from a well on Robert Hubl’s farm for 14.8 cents per MCF. Due to slow response of local farmers, the boundaries had to be changed. Burnt Lake Gas Co-op was formed so the new boundaries were set: Medicine River on the east, Gilby road on the north, Stauffer road on the west, Caroline highway on the south.

The services of Bell and Fenske as consulting engineers were approved. And  an estimated cost of $1375 per customer set as the target for the first 42 customers. Skocdopole Construction Ltd. was hired to do the construction of the system. Work started on October 27, 1971 and was completed December 22, 1971.

Donald Hansen and Robert Hubl donated their services to install meters and other service work. Robert Hubl is the permanently paid serviceman at this date. In 1972, block B north of Eckville was installed, with 68 customers. Five-year contract with Hudson’s Bay oil and gas was signed at 21.5 cents per MCF escalating half a cent per year.

The fall of 1972, block C was formed and built with the gas supply being the original Apache well for the south end and trunk line north of Leslieville to supply the north end. Members of the board in 1972 were W.T. Burns president, C. Skocdopole vice president, Robert Hubl secretary treasurer. Directors: Donald Hansen, Glenn Skocdopole, Claude Caton, August Kasper, Wilbert  Kubik, Les Hake, Les Finkbeiner. In 1975, Wyc Burns retired and was replaced by Al Turner.

In March, 1976, Mel Knopp and Arlen Von Holland replaced Les Hake and Les Finkbeiner. 1977 saw 138 urban and 136 rural customers to hook up including Country Meadows mobile home park at Benalto.

Due to the bad fall in 1977, many farmers would not permit construction to proceed across their land, so construction was not started until very late. However, most of the system was completed before the ground froze too hard.  Twenty-four customers did not receive gas because of this. These farms were connected to gas as weather permitted 1978.

Alberta Gas Co-op History

For five decades, the gas co-op movement in rural Alberta has contributed significantly to Alberta’s economy, all while increasing the quality of life in rural communities and building the world’s largest rural natural gas distribution system. It’s an achievement we are proud of and one that we are celebrating in 2014 as our 50th anniversary of the incorporation of the Federation of Alberta Gas Co-ops Ltd.

It’s a remarkable story of how a dream of a better life led to a country kitchen table meeting to agree on building the first gas co-op. It’s a story of average farmers doing whatever was necessary to build pipeline systems to bring modern heating to their homes, businesses, grain driers, and even to power their irrigation. It’s a story of neighbors helping neighbors to get pipelines across their lands so that the next person could enjoy the same lifestyle. It’s a story about Albertans.

That’s what makes it special: it has always been common folk who have been at the heart of the gas co-op movement. They started, they built it, and to this day through co-operative principles, it is the ordinary rural Albertan that continues to own this system. Every gas co-op is owned by, and serves, its members. Even our municipal utilities can point to being owned by the public-at-large.

Over the past 50 years, these people have invested a lot of time, effort, and many millions of dollars into building this system. What it did was help keep Alberta’s rural communities thriving and economically vibrant. It is what we continue to focus on as we grow to meet the new rural Albertans – whether they are opening land in remote areas or building acreages to enjoy the country lifestyle. It is what we will continue to focus on as we move into our next 50 years!

From humble beginnings, the Federation today, based in Sherwood Park, AB, is comprised of 81natural gas utilities throughout the province of Alberta. Combined, these utilities have over 119,000 members. In an average year, these members consume approximately 25 million gigajoules of natural gas. We are a not-for-profit umbrella organization governed by an eight-member board of directors, with the main function of providing to our Member gas utilities centralized services to help save costs by pooling the resources of our entire membership base.