first nations

As Oil and Gas Revenues Drop by 90 Per Cent, Alberta Budget Paves Way For Clean Energy Sector to Emerge

A renewable energy economy may emerge from the heart of Canada’s oil industry thanks to announcements made in Alberta’s provincial budget last week. The budget promises spending $51.5 billion in 2016 despite resource royalties projected to be as low as $1.4 billion, representing a 90 per cent drop.
 
The province pledged $2.2 billion for clean infrastructure, $645 million for energy efficiency and unveiled an expanded carbon levy that the government estimates will generate $3.4 billion for renewable energy development. An additional $195 million has been set aside to help First Nations communities transition off coal and onto cleaner sources of energy.
 
“We’re very proud of our climate leadership plan as a progressive way to bend the curve on carbon,” Finance Minister Joe Ceci said in a press conference Thursday.
 
Sara Hastings-Simon, director of the clean economy program at the Pembina Institute, commended the province’s decision to expand the carbon levy to beyond industrial emitters.
 
“We know it is the most efficient way to reduce emissions in the province,” she said.

‘It’s the Last Place We Have for Our People’: Doig River’s Last Stand Amidst Fracking Boom

Doig River elder Tommy Attachie.

In the heart of one of the continent’s biggest fracking booms stands a place the people of the Doig River First Nation have revered for generations.

Elders remember visiting this ancient spruce forest in northeastern B.C. as children on horseback. There they’d hunt moose, grieve their loved ones, heal their spirits.

So as oil and gas wells began to crop up all over their traditional territory, the elders of Doig River decided to do something to protect their most sacred place.

In 2011, they declared a tribal park called K’ih tsaa?dze, which means “old spruce” in the Dane-za, or Beaver, language.  

B.C. Orders Enbridge to Seek New Environment Certificate for Northern Gateway

Enbridge will have to secure an environmental assessment certificate from the B.C. government if it wants to proceed with its Northern Gateway oil pipeline according to an order issued by B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office on Friday.
 
Early on in the Northern Gateway process, the B.C. government signed an “equivalency agreement” with the federal government, giving Ottawa the responsibility for the environmental assessment.
 
However, a Supreme Court of B.C. decision this January found that the B.C. government acted improperly and that the province must still make its own decision about issuing an environmental assessment certificate.

In a letter to Enbridge posted last week, B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office states that it will accept the National Energy Board’s (NEB) joint review panel report as the assessment report, but it will carry out its own consultation with Aboriginal groups — if and when Enbridge indicates it’s ready to proceed (it’s clear Enbridge must make a move here).

‘It’s No Longer About Saying No’: How B.C.’s First Nations Are Taking Charge With Tribal Parks

Dasiqox Tribal Park declaration

As the crow flies, the territory of the Tsilhqot’in Nation lies just 300 kilometres north of Vancouver — but, cut off by the coastal mountains, it feels like a world away.
 
By car it takes about nine hours to arrive in the heart of the territory from the Lower Mainland, including an hour or two down a dirt road. If you’re one of the lucky few to arrive here, you’ll be standing on the territory of the only First Nation in Canada to win legal title to its land.
 
On June 26, 2014, the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s 25-year court battle came to an end when the Supreme Court unanimously ruled the nation holds title to approximately 1,900 square kilometres of its traditional territory.
 
Just months after that historic win, the Tsilhqot’in National Government pushed forward with another statement of its sovereignty — this time the declaration of the Dasiqox Tribal Park, located just outside of the nation’s title lands, but within the area the Supreme Court ruled the Tsilhqot’in have constitutionally protected rights to hunt, fish and trap.

B.C.'s Failure to Consult First Nations Sets Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Back to Square One

The provincial government did not fulfill its legal obligation to consult with First Nations on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

The case, brought forward by the Gitga’at and other coastal First Nations, argued the province erred when it handed over decision-making authority for the project to the federal government under a provincial-federal Joint Review Process managed by the federal National Energy Board.

B.C. granted Ottawa authority over the project’s environmental review in a 2010 equivalency agreement. That agreement, however, did not release the province from the legal duty to consult First Nations, the B.C. Supreme Court found.

It’s a very significant ruling,” Elin Sigurdson, lawyer with JFK Law, said. “The coastal First Nations and Gita’at were very successful in the application to quash the equivalency agreement which means the province now has to consult with First Nations that will be affected by matters in the provincial jurisdiction and has to conduct a new environmental assessment for the project.”

'Woe is Us': Oil Industry a Hot Mess After NDP Alberta Victory

While Jim Prentice and his Progressive Conservative cadre lick their wounds after last night’s landslide victory by the New Democratic Party and leader Rachel Notley, punditry about the oil industry’s place in the transformed province is in full force.

Even before the results were in, Canadians were being warned new leadership in Canada’s oilpatch will mean very scary things for the economy: fleeing investors, abandoned projects, market uncertainty.

Now that the victory bells have rung, the hand-wringing has leveled up.

The NDP win is “completely devastating,” for the energy industry, Rafi Tahmazian, fund manager for Canoe Financial LP, told Bloomberg.

The oil patch will pack up and leave,” Licia Corbella, editor of the Calgary Herald’s editorial page, tweeted. “Woe is us.”

Yet many other onlookers are saying fresh leadership in Alberta could bring long-overdue policy changes that not only benefit a broader cross-section of society, but industry itself, by remedying systemic imbalances that have granted an unhealthy amount of power to oil interests for far too long.

Water Is Life; We Can’t Afford To Waste It

This is a guest post by David Suzuki. 

How long can you go without water? You could probably survive a few weeks without water for cooking. If you stopped washing, the threat to your life might only come from people who can’t stand the smell. But most people won’t live for more than three days without water to drink. It makes sense: our bodies are about 65 per cent water.

Alaskans Ring Alarm Bells Over Potential for More Mount Polley Disasters As B.C. Pushes Forward With New Mines

Worried Alaskans who fear lucrative fisheries and tourism industries are at risk from lax B.C. oversight of mine safety are meeting with state officials next week to ask the U.S. State Department to push for more input on mine development along the border of northwest B.C. and southeast Alaska.

We are calling for an equal seat at the table. We want equal representation on the part of Americans and Alaskans when it comes to how these watersheds are developed,” said Heather Hardcastle, a commercial salmon fisher based in Juneau.

We take all the risks and the costs and get none of the benefits.”

Hardcastle is a member of a coalition of Alaskan mayors, First Nations, businessmen and fishers who were horrified by the Mount Polley tailings pond collapse last August. Their concerns were exacerbated by last week’s provincial government report that found a weak foundation and design were responsible for the failure that saw an estimated 25 million cubic metres of waste water and toxic sludge flood from the copper and gold mine’s tailings pond into rivers and lakes.

“Citizen Interventions” Have Cost Canada’s Tar Sands Industry $17B, New Report Shows

Oil companies and fossil fuel investors seeking further developments in the Alberta tar sands have been dealt another setback with the publication of a report showing producers lost $17.1 billion USD between 2010-2013 due to successful public protest campaigns.

Fossil fuel companies lost $30.9 billion overall during the same period partly due to the changing North American oil market but largely because of a fierce grassroots movement against tar sands development, said the report — Material Risks: How Public Accountability Is Slowing Tar Sands Development.

A significant segment of opposition is from First Nations in Canada who are raising sovereignty claims and other environmental challenges, added the report, which was produced by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and Oil Change International (OCI).

Tar sands producers face a new kind of risk from growing public opposition,” Tom Sanzillo, director of finance at IEEFA, and one of the lead authors on the report, said. “This opposition has achieved a permanent presence as public sentiment evolves and as the influence of organizations opposed to tar sands production continues to grow.”

Mount Polley: A Wake-Up Call For Canada’s Mining Industry

Mount Polley Mine Spill

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

When a tailings pond broke at the Mount Polley gold and copper mine in south-central B.C., spilling millions of cubic metres of waste into a salmon-bearing stream, B.C. Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett called it an “extremely rare” occurrence, the first in 40 years for mines operating here.

He failed to mention the 46 “dangerous or unusual occurrences” that B.C’s chief inspector of mines reported at tailings ponds in the province between 2000 and 2012, as well as breaches at non-operating mine sites.

This spill was predictable. Concerns were raised about Mount Polley before the breach. CBC reported that B.C.’s Environment Ministry issued several warnings about the amount of water in the pond to mine owner Imperial Metals.

With 50 mines operating in B.C. — and many others across Canada — we can expect more incidents, unless we reconsider how we’re extracting resources.

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