FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation preparing to stand before regulatory board challenging tar sands winter drilling project


Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation preparing to stand before regulatory board challenging tar sands winter drilling project
August 16, 2013 Fort McMurray, AB – The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) will once again stand before a regulatory body to bring forward evidence regarding the negative and irreversible impacts of tar sands development projects in Northern Alberta.  This time the ACFN will present before the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) to address the impacts of the Teck Frontier Oil Sands Mine project exploratory winter drilling project.
This is a unique and rare hearing of a winter drilling program that do not often trigger hearings before the AER.  For years the ACFN has warned both Federal and Provincial governments about adverse impacts on Treaty Rights created by tar sands development in their territory including early exploratory projects.  In November 2012 and February 2013 the ACFN brought forward evidence to the AER outlining impacts the Teck Frontier’s Winter drilling could have in what ACFN has identified as critical and vital lands that require protection north of Fort McMurray, Alberta.
“The process for granting tenure as well as the project-specific environmental impact assessment process in the tar sands has failed to address the impacts that exploratory projects could have on First Nations rights and title,” stated Doreen Somers, ACFN Industry Relations Corporation. “We hope that the AER will consider our evidence and recognize the necessity of assessing and protecting the rights of First Nations early on.  This would not only create certainty for all parties in the area but would address the concerns of Industry who are often left with unexpected project delays.”
In 2008 ACFN took Alberta to court over its failure to consult before issuing oil sands tenures in their territory highlighting Alberta’s irresponsible leasing practices that lend to uncertainty for both First Nation and Industry alike.  Although the ACFN lost this case due to a very novel interpretation of the both the law regarding notice required to trigger time periods for judicial review, and of the nature of declaratory relief the ACFN is hoping the AER hearing will highlight the importance of addressing these rights early on in the permitting process.
Teck’s Frontier exploration drilling would disrupt an area of land that is vital to one of the only herds of Bison that is disease free.  This area has minimal disturbance and is critical habitat for the protection of the Ronald Lake Herd.  The survival of species at risk is critical and the ACFN has been identified this particular area as a special management zone that is required in the protection of Treaty Rights.
“We are looking out of the best interests of our people, our lands, our rights, and the public,” stated Chief Allan Adam of the ACFN. “Our Elders identified lands that were necessary for the continuation of our rights and survival of species. During the Jackpine Mine hearings the government recognized development is having adverse impacts on our rights. It’s become obvious expansion is out of control and is proceeding without adequately addressing our concerns and the unique rights of First Nations.”
“It’s time government and industry listen because we are serious about asserting our rights and title to protect our territory for current and future generations,” remarked Adam.
In the spring of 2012 the ACFN released a report entitled Níh boghodi: We are the Stewards of our Land which identifies the necessity of developing protection zones and proximate zones north of what is known as the Firebag River.  The ACFN assert these lands are critical to the survival of species such as Caribou and Bison and the continuation of Denesuline culture and identity.
The ACFN will appear before the AER on Monday August 19 at the Chateau Nova Fort McMurray, Alberta starting at 1:00pm.
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For More Information please contact:
Eriel Deranger, ACFN Communications Coordinator 780-903-6598