By Todd Lamirande
Two First Nations say the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) is blocking them from providing input on a tar sands project in their territory. Consequently, the Beaver Lake Cree Nation and Whitefish Lake First Nation have filed an appeal with the Alberta Courts and AER.
The First Nations say the regulator prevented them from providing input on the expansion of a tar sands project near Conklin, Alberta.
Whitefish Lake Chief James Jackson Jr. says it’s a significant departure from past practices.
“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,” he said.
The 85,000 barrel per day expansion is slated to be developed in the same area that First Nations members hunt and fish.
“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?” asks Beaver Lake Chief Henry Gladue.
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNLR) is the company that wants to expand its operation there. Earlier this year APTN Investigates took a closer look at CNLR.
It was in charge of a spill near Primrose and Wolf Lakes. More than a year ago the earth literally cracked open and bitumen oil began leaking. It’s estimated more than a million litres have seeped into the environment from four spills.
In April, the AER allowed CNLR to resume shallow steaming of bitumen less than half a kilometre form one of the ongoing spills. That decision didn’t sit well with one Beaver Lake community member.
“Well, if there was a definition in the dictionary of in bed together (AER & CNRL), it would be them,” says Crystal Lameman. “Because somewhere along the way, you know, the AER, they dropped their backbone. And big oil came along and picked it up for them and is now holding it for ransom.”