First Nations concerns ignored by Alberta Energy Regulator

CALGARY, June 11, 2014 /CNW/ - Two Alberta First Nations have filed an appeal with the Alberta Courts and the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) after the AER prevented them from providing input on an oil sands project that will affect their communities.  The AER's decision represents a significant departure from past practices.  The First Nations are concerned that this reflects an deliberate move by the new regulator to exclude First Nations from the approval process for oil sands developments and other energy projects.

Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Whitefish Lake First Nation, as well as other Aboriginal communities intervened in an application by Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.(CNRL) for the 85,000 barrel per day expansion of the Kirby in situ oil sands project near Conklin, Alberta.  The project will be developed in the same area that First Nation members hunt and fish and will contribute to the demise of caribou in the region.  The project will disturb about 480 square km of public land. Also troubling is that other CNRL in situ oil sands projects at Primrose Lake and Wolf Lake have leaked more than one million litres of bitumen into the environment.

Chief Henry Gladue from the Beaver Lake Cree Nation said: "The Government of Alberta has spent a lot of time and money in places like Washington and New York to promote the province's so-called "world class" regulatory system.  How can a system that refuses to allow a voice for impacted communities be world class? In reality, Alberta's regulatory system silences concerns which is more third world than world class. Alberta is saying one thing and doing something very different."

Chief James Jackson Jr. of the Whitefish Lake First Nation added: "Our past participation in the regulatory process helped resource companies better understand our concerns and provided at least some motivation for industry to work with First Nations to address our concerns.  Many people in our communities continue to rely on fish and game to feed their families.  Resource development can co-exist with First Nations and can happen in way that respects our traditional way of life - but not if we are frozen out of the process by the Alberta Energy Regulator. This is not only a First Nation issue.  Other rural Albertans are also being frozen out of the process. This should be a concern to everyone.  First Nations, like other rural Albertans, live in the midst of these expanding developments.  Our input is important to understanding the impacts on the land and the impacts on our communities. The AER is becoming nothing more than a rubber stamp for resource companies."

By launching Court and regulatory challenges to the CNRL approval, Beaver Lake Cree Nation and Whitefish Lake First Nation are putting industry and government on notice that they will not accept the approval of energy projects without serious consideration of First Nations' legitimate concerns. Beaver Lake and Whitefish Lake First Nations are deeply troubled about the AER's new priority of approving projects as quickly as possible at the expense of ensuring that projects are environmentally sound and take into account those Albertans who are most impacted.

Because this matter is currently before the Courts, no further comment will be provided.

SOURCE: Beaver Lake Cree Nation

For further information:

Chief Henry Gladue
Beaver Lake Cree Nation
Phone: 780.623.4549
Toll Free: 1.877.610.3110

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Beaver Lake Cree Nation

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Whitefish Lake First Nation

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