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ACFN opposes 900,000 bpd Grand Rapids pipeline

Maude stands with the ACFNThe Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) is opposing the Grand Rapids pipeline project being proposed by TransCanada and Brion Energy Corporation, a subsidiary of state-owned PetroChina. A 460-kilometre pipeline would carry up to 900,000 barrels of diluted bitumen per day from Fort McMurray to a terminal in Hardisty, southeast of Edmonton. The project would also include a pipeline to carry 300,000 barrels per day of diluent. Initial shipments could begin in mid-2016.

The pipelines would cross traditional lands and dozens of rivers and streams, including the Athabasca River and the North Saskatchewan River. Yesterday morning, the ACFN filed a court challenge arguing that Alberta’s Consultation Office failed to consult them on the pipeline project and has denied them their treaty and constitutional rights.

Fort McMurray Today reports, “TransCanada unexpectedly filed an environmental protection plan as evidence at the start of [a] hearing [on the pipeline], which was requested by the Alberta Energy Regulator [AER]. TransCanada had already shown the ACFN an earlier draft of the plan and the ACFN wanted 18 months to study the final version. Instead, the AER gave them one day after TransCanada argued that was too long. A few hours later, ACFN withdrew from the hearings [in July], which continued. The project was approved in October [2014].”

The Edmonton Journal adds, “It’s difficult to see why the band was shut out of consultation when the nearby Mikisew Cree band was included, Athabasca First Nation spokeswoman Eriel Deranger said. ‘Our two nations have overlapping territory and reserve lands are very close.'” That news report adds, “There are ‘serious flaws’ in the government’s consultation process when ‘someone in an office’ makes a final decision without providing reasons, Deranger said.”

And the Canadian Press notes, “The band is asking a judge to overturn the approval the provincial energy regulator granted the project last fall. The province’s consultation office has long been controversial and is opposed by nearly every band in the province.”

In October 2012, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow visited the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. She was there to support their request for the Energy Resources Conservation Board to hear a constitutional challenge against the expansion of Shell’s Jackpine operation. She wrote at that time, “The ACFN is arguing that the increase in oil production (to about 300,000 barrels a day) would destroy water, air and wilderness in a vast area of their territory.” The Harper government approved the expansion of the Jackpine project in December 2013. The ACFN lost its application for a judicial review of that decision in December 2014. The Jackpine project still requires many permits before it can proceed and the ACFN is seeing how that unfolds before it makes a decision about a challenge at the Supreme Court against the expansion.

During her visit there, Barlow spoke about the need to build a coalition of people fighting the tar sands at its source and those fighting pipelines. So in April 2014, Deranger joined Barlow in a six-city tour across Ontario in opposition to the 1.1 million barrels per day TransCanada Energy East pipeline project. Deranger says, “Not only do the tar sands put my community’s culture and traditional way of life at risk for future generations, diluted bitumen shipped by pipeline puts your land and water at risk.”

The Council of Canadians stands in solidarity with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.