Dene Tha' First Nation

June 22, 2011 10:30 ET

Dene Tha' First Nation Challenges Shale Gas Development in Northeastern B.C.

CHATEH, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - June 22, 2011) - Dene Tha' First Nation is taking its concerns about shale gas development in northeastern British Columbia to the British Columbia Supreme Court. Dene Tha' has filed a Petition with the B.C. Supreme Court to challenge the B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines' decision to sell oil and gas tenures in the "Cordova Basin" in June 2010 for the purpose of shale gas development.

The Cordova Basin is located within Dene Tha's Traditional Territory in northeastern British Columbia, where Dene Tha' members exercise their constitutionally-protected Treaty 8 rights to hunt, fish, trap and gather. Prior to the sale of the tenures, Dene Tha' expressed a number of concerns to the Ministry of Energy and Mines about the sale of these tenures for shale gas development, including negative impacts to water quality and quantity, threatened species such as caribou, and the exercise of their Treaty 8 rights.

Dene Tha' Chief James Ahnassay explained the reason for the lawsuit, saying: "We are deeply concerned about the lack of adequate information necessary to understand the impacts of shale gas development to the environment and our rights, given that shale gas technologies are new to northeastern B.C., enormous volumes of water are required, serious contamination problems have arisen with shale gas development in the United States, and insufficient studies have been undertaken to identify and address impacts from shale gas technologies."

In the lawsuit, Dene Tha' asserts that the Ministry of Energy did not address these concerns and did not engage in a meaningful consultation process with Dene Tha' prior to its decision to sell the tenures. Dene Tha' repeatedly asked British Columbia to undertake the necessary studies prior to selling land tenures. Despite there being no legal impediment to doing this important work, British Columbia ignored Dene Tha's requests.

Shale gas production requires the use of a technology known as "hydraulic fracking" which requires the injection of large volumes of water, sand and chemicals into wells at high pressure to crack the shale rock and create fractures through which gas can be released. Earlier this year, a number of jurisdictions around the world, including Québec, the State of New York, the State of Maryland, South Africa and France, placed moratoria on the controversial procedure of hydraulic fracking until impacts can be better understood.

Dene Tha' had hoped that some of its concerns about shale gas development could be addressed through discussions with the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission and industry. However, that has not occurred to date. As a result, Dene Tha' has decided to proceed with its lawsuit to ask the B.C. Supreme Court to set aside the tenure sales and require British Columbia to engage in a meaningful consultation process with Dene Tha' that addresses its concerns about shale gas development in its Traditional Territory.

Contact Information

  • Dene Tha' First Nation
    Chief James Ahnassay

    Janes Freedman Kyle Law Corporation
    Rosanne Kyle
    Legal Counsel

    Janes Freedman Kyle Law Corporation
    Robert Freedman
    Legal Counsel