Shell’s Environmental Impact Assessment Fails to Protect the Environment and First Nation Rights:
Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation opposes Shell’s proposed projectDecember 20, 2011
Edmonton – Friday marked the closing date for the Joint Review Panel (JRP) public comments on the adequacy of Shell’s proposed Jackpine mine expansion application and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Many environmental and First Nation groups, including the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN), submitted initial comments outlining flaws and potential impacts of the proposed project. Once the JRP is satisfied information is adequate it will announce details of the public hearing, including dates, location, and any pre-hearing process. If the Panel is satisfied with information presented hearings will likely begin in 2012.
ACFN and Mikisew Cree First Nation (MCFN), whose members find it increasingly difficult to hunt, fish, trap and gather as their lands are rapidly industrialized, submitted a joint submission in response to the JRP request for submissions on Shell’s Jackpine Expansion project. The joint submission asserts rights protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, including rights pursuant to Treaty 8, to hunt, fish, and trap, which guarantees First Nations have a meaningful livelihood now and for the future. ACFN’s joint submission identifies the following overarching flaws in the application:
1. Shell has not provided sufficient information with respect to the Project’s impacts and infringements of our section 35 rights for the JRP to comply with the Terms of Reference.
2. Shell has not provided sufficient information for the JRP to be able to conduct an assessment of the cumulative effects of the Project, either on environmental components or on our section 35 rights and traditional uses.
3. Shell has not provided sufficient information for the JRP to assess water quantity issues, including the degree to which the Project could diminish water levels below the threshold level where we can still exercise our section 35 rights and fully access our traditional lands.
“We are rightfully concerned about how Shell’s proposed Jackpine Mine Expansion Project will impact and infringe our section 35 rights. It’s clear Shell’s current application does not include enough information for the JRP to appropriately assess potential impacts on our rights,” stated Chief Allan Adam of ACFN.
“We hope the JRP will respect our unique rights and implement our recommendations and not let Shell slide through the approval process without addressing our concerns,” stated Chief Adam. “We will no longer stand on the side lines as Shell permanently destroys our lands, our rivers, our rights and our community.”
Chief Adam’s comments come only weeks after ACFN served Shell Canada with a lawsuit for unfulfilled terms of agreements regarding existing tar sands mines. The agreements were meant to ensure Shell would provide a number of measures to lessen the impact of these mines on ACFN. The community asserts that Shell’s current operations are already threatening the environment and the communities way of life and plan to oppose Shell’s two new tar sands mines until all past and future concerns are addressed.
“It’s not surprising Shell is on the hook for unmet agreements in the tar sands, their track record in other countries is shameful,” stressed Eriel Deranger, spokesperson and Tar Sands communication officer for ACFN. Shell is allegedly responsible for oil spills, gas flaring and deforestation in Nigeria stripping the land of resources, destroying subsistence farming- and fishing-based economies of Ogoni people. A fate people of ACFN want to avoid. “It would be irresponsible for the Panel to approve this application and allowing the expansion of any tar sands projects. We have been calling for a moratorium on new projects and Shell is no exception. Shell has clearly failed to meet base requirements fundamental to adequate environmental, treaty and human rights protection in the area,” continued Deranger, “we can no longer afford run away expansion on our traditional lands.”
ACFN and MCFN’s concerns regarding Shell’s EIA and proposal are echoes by groups like Sierra Club Prairie and the Oil Sands Environmental Coalition (OSEC) who also put forward submissions outlining serious flaws in Shell’s EIA.
Sierra Club Prairie’s submission stated, “Development is occurring at such as fast pace that each new EIS cannot fully consider cumulative effects; projects are being announced and approved faster than the cumulative impacts can be evaluated in impact statements.” A concern shared by community members from ACFN and in Fort Chipewyan.
OSEC submission reports major gaps in the submissions that renders “information before the Panel inadequate to proceed with its assessment.” OSEC’s submission goes on to state the assessment failed to incorporate relevant information about valued species and species at risk. Many of these valued and species at risk are vital to the continuation of protected treaty rights of the people of ACFN.
Chief Adam of ACFN stated, “We’re drawing the line, and taking a strong stand against Shell. ACFN wants no further developments until Shell is brought to justice and our broader concerns about the cumulative impacts in the region are addressed, our treaty rights respected and our rights are fully recognized within the approval process once and for all.”
Eriel Deranger, ACFN Tar Sands Communication Officer 780-903-6598
orChief Allan Adam, ACFN 780-713-1220
Indigenous Environmental Network "A network of Indigenous Peoples empowering Indigenous Nations and communities towards sustainable livelihoods, demanding environmental justice and maintaining the Sacred Fire of our traditions."