'Nothing came about:' Alberta First Nation revives oilsands pipeline lawsuit
An Alberta aboriginal leader says inaction from the provincial government is forcing his First Nation to reactivate a court challenge to an approval for a major oilsands pipeline already under construction.
"With the new NDP government coming in, we were hoping they'd come to the table and start working on things that are outstanding," Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation said Monday.
"But when they came to the table, nothing came about. Nothing has moved on anything."
The band originally filed a lawsuit in January 2015 against regulatory approvals for the Grand Rapids pipeline, a 460-kilometre 900,000 barrel-a-day line from northern Alberta to southeast of Edmonton. It is co-owned by TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) and a unit of PetroChina.
The band alleges Alberta's aboriginal consultation office violated its rights by saying it wasn't directly affected by TransCanada's Grand Rapids proposal, even though it crosses land claimed as traditional territory.
The aboriginal consultation office, intended to make talks between First Nations and industry smoother and more predictable, has instead become a major friction point.
In papers filed this month, the band also alleges there was pressure to approve the pipeline quickly.
It quotes a letter written by a senior official at the consultation office that says: "TransCanada’s treatment of our staff […] has been minimally professional and on the border of bullying."
Another government official wrote that the handling of the Grand Rapids proposal "will not be the routine way of doing things going forward. This is an exception due to the higher level of interest in this project."
A provincial spokesman wasn't immediately available. The province has changed some aspects of the consultation office but the bulk of it remains in place.
The province's energy regulator began public hearings on the project in July 2014. The Athabasca Chipewyan withdrew after the panel refused to give them an 18-month adjournment to consider project changes. Nor would the panel grant research funding.
The Grand Rapids proposal was ultimately approved and is under construction.