From: Jeremy Hainsworth, Associated Press
Published February 27, 2006 12:00 AM

Aboriginal Group Demands Inclusion of Review of MacKenzie Valley Pipeline

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — An aboriginal group is asking the Federal Court of Canada to temporarily halt an environmental review of a $6-billion natural gas pipeline, which it says could impact its traditional way of life.


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. They say the federal government has left them completely out of the consultation process on the MacKenzie Valley pipeline process.


The pipeline would cross traditional lands of the 2,500-strong Dene Tha nation. The case before Justice Michael Phelan this week came even as the federal Joint Review Panel on the proposed Mackenzie Gas Project pipeline continues in Inuvik, in Canada's Northwest Territories.


The Mackenzie Gas Project is a proposed 760-mile natural gas pipeline through the Mackenzie Valley of Canada's Northwest Territories to connect a dozen potential northern onshore gas fields with North American markets by 2010.


To reach continental North American markets, the main pipeline would need to link with an existing one in the western province of Alberta.


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.


As the Canadian hearings proceed, Alaska on Tuesday reached a tentative pact with Exxon Mobil, BP PLC and ConocoPhillips to build a $25 billion pipeline to transport up to 4.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day to the lower 48 states -- or about 7 percent of present U.S. demand.


That project could take a decade or more to complete, as it awaits permits from U.S. and Canadian authorities. The Alaskan pipeline would run through Canada's Yukon Territory and Alberta.


In Vancouver, the Dene Tha's lawyer, Robert Janes, argued this week that Ottawa failed to meet its constitutional obligation by leaving the Dene Tha out of both the hearings and benefits negotiations.


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.


Phelan did not indicate when he might make a ruling.


Source: Associated Press


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