First Nations representatives address hearing on proposed pipeline expansion in west central Alberta

Hearing days set aside specifically to gather Indigenous oral knowledge

Federal energy regulators are hearing from First Nations representatives who wish to comment on a proposed $500-million natural gas pipeline expansion northwest of Rocky Mountain House.

Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. plans to build 40- and 45-kilometre sections of pipeline southwest and northwest of Rocky Mountain House.

Additional pipeline is needed to increase the capacity of the company’s network of pipelines to carry natural gas from the Peace River area to central Alberta.

The Commission of the Canada Energy Regulator began two days of hearings in Red Deer on Tuesday to hear “oral indigenous knowledge” on the project.

“The CER recognizes that indigenous peoples have an oral tradition for sharing knowledge from generation to generation,” says the regulator.

“This information cannot always be shared meaningful in writing.

“Indigenous knowledge can provide relevant information to the CER, including information that may otherwise have been unavailable.”

Bearspaw, Chiniki and Wesley First Nations, whose land is in the Morley area west of Kananaskis, and Piikani Nation, east of Pincher Creek, have signed up to address the regulator.

Additional hearing dates for further Indigenous input are set for next month in Edmonton.

Nova hopes to have the $509-million pipeline project done by 2022. Construction is expected to begin in early 2021.

An economic analysis prepared by Stantec Consulting Ltd. projects the expansion will boost the province’s gross domestic product by $130 million.

When indirect benefits are factored in, $285 million in GDP and $175 million in wages are projected.

Nova has also committed to working with Aboriginal groups to encourage the participation of First Nations workers and businesses, says the company in its application.

Sunchild and O’Chiese First Nations are located relatively close to the two pipeline sections. They are expected to speak at a Feb. 26 hearing.

Representatives from Ermineskin Cree Nation and Louis Bull Tribe, from Maskwacis, will address the regulator on Feb. 25, along with representatives of Driftpile Cree Nation and Blood Tribe.

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