New Year, New Obstabcles: Proposed Shell Expansion and the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline

Coming out of the holiday season and right back into the eye of the storm….2012 is Shell’s expansion and pipelines.

The hot topic for the start of 2012 has been the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline.  The proposed pipeline would carry approximately 525,000 barrels/day of oil, predominately tar sands oil, from Alberta to a port in Kitimat and ship 193,000 barrels/day of toxic condensate back along the same route to Alberta.

It’s pretty easy to draw the lines of connection between the Pipeline and the planned tar sands expansion projects of corporations like Shell.  Shell is planning on more then doubling production to total of 500,000 barrels/day and they are going to need a way to ship their tar sands somewhere…

The Northern Gateway pipeline would cross over 1,000 streams and rivers, including sensitive salmon spawning habitat in the upper Fraser, Skeena, and Kitimat watersheds.  Salmon rivers in the Stuart River, Morice River, Copper River, Kitimat River and Salmon River could be drastically impacted by the pipeline.  In addition, the Pipeline is set to chis-cross the territories of more than 50 First Nations.  In BC very few of these Nations have signed treaties with the Crown lending to a sticky mess of  rights and title to wade through.  Currently, the rights and title of BC First Nation to their traditional territories has been affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada and yet, the current Joint Review Panel does little to address this issue.

This past fall 4,300 individuals signed up to present oral testimony at the Enbridge hearings scheduled across BC and Alberta. Here in Alberta we have 14 Aboriginal communities registered to be an Intervenor. In BC, the list of First Nation and non-first Nation opposition is growing at an exponential rate.  The Yinka Dene Alliance has garnered the support of over 130 First Nation groups signing onto  the Save the Fraser Declaration opposing the pipeline.

What’s all the fuss, you ask?  Well, let’s take a look at how often pipeline’s rupture.  Enbridge alone recorded 610 ruptures and spills between 1999 and 2010. And of course we all know how bad an oil spill can be and how devastating it can be to eco-systems.  We all need to just take a good look at the BP oil spill for a reminder, or perhaps Exxon Valdez.  For a more details overview of Enbridge Spills Click HERE.

Today, the Conservative government released a statement damning “radical” environmentalists opposed to Canadian resource development. Oliver is quick to makes statements such as “These groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.” And, “They seek to exploit any loophole they can find, stacking public hearings with bodies to ensure that delays kill good projects. They use funding from foreign special-interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest.”  All the while, Oliver has shown his true colors by pushing for measures to speed up Canada’s regulatory process for major natural resource initiatives.  We all know these means allowing faster approval for tar sands projects and pipelines.

What bothers me the most about these statements is the Conservative government fails to recognize that it’s not just environmental groups that oppose the pipeline. It’s private citizens from municipalities and communities in the path of the pipeline. It’s First Nations across turtle island supporting opposition to expansion of tar sands projects, which in my opinion, is an extension of the tar sands projects carrying the dirty legacy to the west coast of the country. Secondly, it bothers me that he criticizes these group for utilizing funds from foreign special-interest groups, when he is doing much worse, he is utilizing public funds to uphold an agenda that is not fully supported by the general public.

When 4,300 regular citizen step up to the plate to raise their voice and concern over the Northern Gateway it’s obvious there is something wrong.  Let’s hope the NEB listens to the criticism and evidence being brought forward and doesn’t rubber stamp another project without weighing all of the pro, cons, and rights of the public and those most impacted.

As a member of a community being impacted by rapid tar sands development in the Athabasca it’s hard for me to ignore the Northern Gateway pipeline issue and draw the obvious lines of connection.  Rapid expansion in the tar sands has left developers struggling for inexpensive ways to ship, refine and sell their oil.  As of late, Canadian leaders have been utilizing the angle of moral high ground when it comes to the tar sands.  However, recently this illusion of “ethical oil” is being shattered by new tar sands partnerships being built with countries like China. China, a country with a long list of human rights abuses. Oliver used the argument “It’s in the national interest to diversify our markets. And that is a strategic objective.” Again, logic has been brought back to the dollar and overlooks the environment and First Nation rights.

It is my personal sentiment that we stand in solidarity with the groups opposing the projects.  That we stand with those looking out for future generations, and looking out for mother earth.  I for one, will no longer let run away expansion and development occur in my territory and urge you all to take a stand and say enough is enough.


Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s Case against Shell


On September 30, 2011 the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) filed a lawsuit against Shell Canada for unfulfilled terms of agreements between ACFN and Shell regarding Shell’s existing tar sands mines.  These agreements were meant to ensure Shell would provide measures to lessen impact of these mines on ACFN, including agreements to address environmental issues and mitigation. Shell received permits to begin tar sands operations in 1956 and is now one of the largest operators producing close to 20% of overall production with projects directly on Indigenous lands.

Shell has not honored these agreements with ACFN leaving many commitments outstanding. ACFN members and others have observed that Shell’s operations are harming the environment and ACFN’s rights and culture, the impacts of the failed agreements contribute to the following:

  • lost opportunities to conduct environmental monitoring in the ACFN’s traditional territory during the development of Shell’s projects; and
  • lost opportunity to mitigate impacts and potential impacts to ACFN aboriginal and treaty rights caused by the development of these projects.


  • Polluted water and contributed to low water levels in the Athabasca and Muskeg Rivers.
  • Shell has exceeded surface water quality, ground water quality and air quality values at the Muskeg River Mine.
  •  Fish and wildlife have been impacted by poor water quality downstream of oil sands. There are only 3 Fishery officers for all of Alberta.
  • Shell’s Scotford upgrader, which processes bitumen from the Muskeg River Mine, has had accidents resulting in fires and uncontrolled releases of deadly H2S.
  • Shell tried to avoid installing sufficient pollution control equipment at the Muskeg River Mine and was unable to meet its solvent recovery requirements.
  •  At the adjoining Styrene Monomer Manufacturing Plant, Shell has released wastewater effluent that failed to meet permit limits (August 2008) and has also released wastewater without even sampling or monitoring the discharge at all (June 2001).
  • Shell’s tailings plans for both the Jackpine Mine and the Muskeg River Mine did not meet the standards of Directive 074, the government policy designed to reduce the environmental impact of tailings.
  •  Shell has not honored their agreement with the Oil Sands Environmental Coalition either – Shell had promised OSEC to reduce its greenhouse gas pollution to levels in line with alternatives available in North America.


Now, Shell is proposing to massively expand one of these existing projects, and also has plans for a completely new project in an area that is very important to ACFN’s traditional way of life.  ACFN  members fear that these mines will have catastrophic effects on First Nations rights and the environment.   If Shell Canada’s proposals are approved it would more then double their production.  ACFN is drawing the line, and taking a strong stand against Shell. ACFN wants no further developments until Shell is brought to justice and their broader concerns about the cumulative impacts in the region are addressed.

For more information on the Joint Review Process for the two proposed projects please click here.


  • Significantly impact at least 10 species at risk and a range of wildlife and habitat in the area;
  • Drive ACFN members out of an actively used region of their territory that is critical to maintaining their culture, particularly for the families and members associated with the southern territories of ACFN’s traditional lands, which have already been devastated by oil sands development;
  • Contribute to the massive water withdrawals by oil sands projects from the Athabasca River, which ACFN members rely on as a transportation highway to their traditional sites, but which is now reported to be so low at points that safe access is no longer possible to many  traditional sites throughout ACFN’s lands;
  • Contribute to the contamination of the Athabasca River, the lifeblood of ACFN culture – already many members are too concerned to eat fish from the Athabasca River, once a cultural staple;
  • Generate vast amounts of tailings (JPM would be the largest tailings pond in the oil sands), a toxic legacy which the industry still has no foreseeable ability to reclaim or de-contaminate; and
  • Significantly accelerate the overwhelming development occurring on ACFN’s traditional lands,. ACFN members are at the tipping point for the survival of their culture, their traditional practices and the rights solemnly promised to them by the Crown under Treaty 8.


So far, Shell has only promised to address some of these effects if First Nations enter into agreements with Shell.  But, Shell’s performance on ACFN’s traditional lands has given good reason for ACFN to oppose to the proposed Jackpine Mine Expansion and Pierre River Mine. The Joint Review Panel, the government regulators and the people of Alberta should not trust this particular corporation to do the right thing.

The Joint Review Panel reviewing the proposed Jackpine Mine Expansion project announced a comment period on the adequacy of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and the Application filed by the proponent, Shell Canada Ltd. This comment period provides interested parties an opportunity to express their views to the Panel on the adequacy of the available information.

“The Panel will review the public comments received and will determine whether it will require additional information from the proponent. Once the Panel is satisfied that the information is adequate, it will announce the details of the public hearing, including the hearing commencement date, the hearing venue, and any prehearing process and will provide a minimum of 60 days notice prior to the start of the hearing.” []

Forward your written comments by mail, e-mail or fax, in either official language by December 16, 2011 to the Panel Secretariat at the address below. All comments received by the Joint Review Panel will be considered public and will be posted on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry Internet site.

Joint Review Panel Secretariat
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
160 Elgin Street, 22nd Floor
Ottawa, ON K1A 0H3
Tel.: 1-866-582-1884
Fax: 613-957-0941


ACFN is drawing the line, and taking a strong stand against these proposed Shell projects and the rapid development of its traditional lands without regard for its treaty rights, its cultural survival or the devastating environmental impacts. ACFN wants no further developments until Shell is brought to justice and our broader concerns about the impacts of development in the region are addressed.