Alberta aboriginal band files court challenge over pipeline approval process
By Sheila Pratt, Edmonton JournalJanuary 15, 2015 12:06 PM
EDMONTON - An Alberta native band shut out of consultations over the planned Grand Rapids pipeline has launched a court challenge in Calgary of the province’s fledgling Aboriginal Consultation Office.
The case will be a test of the province’s new, fast-track approval process for oil and gas projects.
The year-old office, facing its first legal challenge, ruled last summer that TransCanada did not have to consult with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation about the impact of the 500-km pipeline between the Edmonton area and Fort McMurray.
The Grand Rapids pipeline, almost double the size of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, will move 900,000 barrels a day of diluted bitumen to a terminal in Hardisty, southeast of Edmonton. The pipeline crosses traditional aboriginal lands and several waterways upstream of the community on Lake Athabasca.
The consultation office was a key new element of the government’s effort to provide for faster approval for oilsands projects under the new Alberta Energy Regulator.
The consultation office decides which bands a company must consult, rather than having bands gain standing at a hearing.
“We were shocked to learn that Alberta had decided we had no right to be consulted about this project,” Chief Alan Adam said in a written statement.
The band has held some “positive discussions” with Premier Jim Prentice on the issue, Adam said, but the situation is not resolved.
“I’ve told him, frankly, the current system is completely broken and operates behind a curtain and makes decisions about First Nations’ rights without any accountability.”
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