Métis Nation denied intervener status; More than 100 attend first day of hearings for Petro-Canada oilsands upgraderPosted: July 2, 2008
Robin Collum, June 24, 2008, The Edmonton Journal, FORT SASKATCHEWAN -- A bid by the Métis Nation of Alberta to be granted intervener status in the latest upgrader hearing was rejected by the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board on Monday.
The ERCB is conducting hearings to decide whether to approve Petro-Canada's application to build an oilsands upgrading plant northwest of Edmonton in an area called Upgrader Alley.
The Métis Nation argued it had a legal right to be included in the consultation process before the hearing stage, and claimed members' constitutional rights as Métis gave them a place in the consultation process separate from their rights as landowners.
The group asked on Monday to be given full intervener status in the proceedings, but the request was denied.
The organization can now be involved in the hearing only as discretionary participants, though members may appear as private citizens as well.
As a group, the Métis Nation will be allowed to present a summary of evidence and concerns after Petro-Canada representatives have spoken.
They will get no funding or extra time, and the presentation cannot touch on constitutional issues.
"We wanted to be consulted on what impacts this would have on the Métis people of this area," said Cecil Bellrose, regional president of the Métis Nation.
Bellrose said the Métis Nation had wanted to be able to put forth concerns regarding land and water use, as well as hunting and fishing.
"I'm disappointed, I guess," Bellrose said. "It was argued here today that we don't have constitutionally protected rights, but that's not true."
While Bellrose said the Métis weren't interested in stopping the Petro-Canada development, some people who live near the proposed site want it moved somewhere else.
More than 100 people were at the hearings on Monday to watch the proceedings and register to speak later in the week.
Some say they're concerned about the negative effects they claim the Petro-Canada project will have on the environment.
Luzmaria Groot was at the hearing with her husband, Wayne. Their farm is in Upgrader Alley.
They don't want more heavy industry built on quality agricultural land, and are worried about the impact on the air and water.
"They are building this on prime farmland, and it's not acceptable. There are better places to go for them," Luzmaria said.
"I want them to know that we are worried about our children."
Neil Camarta, Petro-Canada's senior vice-president in charge of oilsands, said his company has good reasons to build in this part of Alberta.
"We'd like to build in the Heartland because it's close to Edmonton," he said.
"It's easier to build here than in Fort McMurray, and it's easier to attract workers here to build it and run it. There's lots of good reasons to build it in this area."
Camarta defended the development's projected environmental footprint.
"From an environmental perspective, this is a pretty good project," he said. "We're not using any fresh water, we're (carbon dioxide) sequestration-ready, and other emissions are lower than the previous generation of upgraders."
Camarta said he's confident the upgrader will get the green light from the board and that Petro-Canada is prepared to begin construction as early as this fall.
"We want to start preparing the site, and we've already ordered some of the materials. As soon as we get the approval, we're good to go."
If approved, Petro-Canada's upgrader could process 140,000 barrels of bitumen each day by 2012.
This hearing is scheduled to continue until July 4.
Petro-Canada presented witnesses in favour of the project on Monday. They will then be open for questioning by the board and those on the other side of the issue. Then the process is repeated with the anti-development side and its experts.