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AP Worldstream: Court rules Canadian government did not consult aboriginal group over Arctic pipeline

EXTRACT: Four major Canadian oil and gas companies _ Imperial Oil, ConocoPhillips Co., Shell Canada and Exxon Mobil Corp. _ are partners in the project, along with the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, set up to represents First Nations’ interests.

THE ARTICLE

Canada’s Federal Court ruled that the Canadian government failed to consult with an aboriginal group in connection with a US$6-billion (A4.66-billion) natural gas pipeline in northern Canada, possibly delaying the project.

Judge Michael Phalen ruled Friday that a panel studying the Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline project cannot review any aspect of the project affecting the Dene Tha’ First Nation lands and that the government must consult with the aboriginal group.

The Mackenzie Gas Project is a proposed 760-mile (1,225-kilometer) natural gas pipeline through the Mackenzie Valley of Canada’s Northwest Territories. It would connect a dozen potential northern onshore gas fields with North American markets by 2011.

It has been hampered by cost overruns, regulatory delays and opposition from some native and environmental groups.

The Dene Tha are a First Nations tribe whose traditional territory is spread across seven reserves in Alberta, British Columbia, and the southern end of the Northwest Territories. The court agreed that the federal government left them completely out of the consultation process.

The pipeline would cross traditional lands of the 2,500-strong Dene Tha nation.

A 1899 treaty handed ownership of Dene Tha lands to the government, but created reserves for traditional livelihoods of hunting, fishing and trapping. Consultation on any changes to the land use is required under the treaty.

Northwest Territories Industry Minister Brendan Bell said the decision is worrying for pipeline supporters.

“There’s at least the potential for delay and for that reason I’m concerned,” he said. “I just hope the two sides can come together to solve this.”

Four major Canadian oil and gas companies _ Imperial Oil, ConocoPhillips Co., Shell Canada and Exxon Mobil Corp. _ are partners in the project, along with the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, set up to represents First Nations’ interests.

They believe as much as 1.2 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas could initially move through the pipeline, providing energy revenue for the provinces, as well as jobs for aboriginals.

Published: Nov 11, 2006

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