Lubicon Lake Indian Nation
Little Buffalo Lake, Alberta
3536 - 106 Street
Edmonton, Alberta T6J 1A4
September 28, 1994
Attachments to the following mail-out are quoted extensively in the narrative and are 139 pages long. The cost of including them in a general mail-out is therefore very high and of questionable value for most people. Consequently the attachments are not included but are available upon request. A list of attachments available upon request is as follows:
Lubicon Lake Indian Nation
Little Buffalo Lake, Alberta
3536 - 106 Street
Edmonton, Alberta T6J 1A4
September 28, 1994
Facing a Federal Indian Affairs Minister who is essentially taking the position that the Lubicon people must cede their aboriginal rights in order to talk about a settlement of those rights, and Provincial officials who are actively seeking to undermine the hard won Grimshaw (reserve land) Accord on which hope for a negotiated settlement of Lubicon land rights hinges, the Lubicon people are now also facing the spectre of a new $10 million sour gas (hydrogen sulphide) processing plant which has been hurriedly constructed literally a stone's throw away from the proposed Lubicon reserve.
Of course nobody in their right mind would build a sour gas processing plant next to a human community or vice versa. The Lubicon people have no place else to be but such a consideration has never been of concern to either the multi-national resource exploitation companies or their cronies in the Alberta Provincial government. In fact given the history of the Lubicon struggle it's certainly not inconceivable that current Provincial government efforts to break the Grimshaw Accord are directly related to apparently significant sour gas reserves located in the area agreed at Grimshaw combined with currently high natural gas prices and a growing U.S. natural gas market.
The new sour gas processing plant in the Lubicon territory has been built by Unocal Canada Management Limited -- the Canadian affiliate of Union Oil of California. It is a 27.8 mmacfd sour gas processing plant with a 2400 horsepower compressor which knowledgable sources describe as "huge". It was approved by the relevant Provincial regulatory agency -- the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) -- based on inaccurate information and following suspect procedures.
While sour gas processing plants are still fiercely defended by self-interested oil companies and their cronies in the Alberta Provincial government as a perfectly safe and sane way to make bushel baskets of money, there is in fact considerable evidence and growing concern that they are neither safe nor sane. Those concerns include:
The occupational health standard in Alberta is 10 parts of hydrogen sulphide per million parts of atmosphere over an 8 hour period at the plant site. That standard is based on healthy adults working at the plant site over a normal 8 hour working day. However no consideration is given to the cumulative effect of multiple sources or to the affect of this level of exposure upon young people, old people or people with respiratory and other health problems. In addition chronic levels of exposure as low as one part per million (ppm) are known to cause significant health problems similar to asthma in laboratory rats and brain damage in fetal rats adversely affecting such key cerebral functions as learning behaviour, fine motor control and memory.
Laboratory rats are not the only form of life known to be adversely affected by chronic low level exposure to the sulphurous and other gases associated with sour gas processing plants. Vegetation is also known to be adversely affected. Hay, grass and trees growing 6 km. away from a Norcen sour gas processing plant east of St. Albert -- which is about 1/18th the size of the huge new Unocal plant and has a 40% taller flare stack equipped with supposedly effective sulphur removing technology -- are reportedly producing "weird looking growth abnormalities" and previously healthy trees are dying. (The death of whole forests due to the related phenomenon of acid rain is of course a matter of well documented international concern.)
Large domestic farm animals similar to the moose upon which the Lubicons have historically depended for food are known to be adversely affected by sour gas processing plants as well. Eight cattle from a cattle herd located 6 kms. away from the much smaller Norcen plant east of St. Albert died in the first two weeks of plant operation and several others developed severe health problems. In the next three years the cattle in that same cattle herd experienced increased respiratory problems, problems with an eye condition called "red eye", breeding problems, abnormal twinning, birth defects, spontaneous abortions, stillborn calves and the size of the herd dropped by a third from 350 to 250. (Not surprisingly Norcen denies that their plant has anything to do with these problems but the fact remains that the problems didn't exist until the plant was built.)
Similarly worrisome is evidence of adverse affects upon cattle in the area around another gas processing plant owned by Shell at Caroline. Cattle 20 kms. away from the Shell sour gas processing plant at Caroline are reportedly experiencing "severe depression of their immune systems". According to one source "their immune systems are literally being wiped out". A veterinarian toxicologist working for the Alberta Environmental Centre says that the damage to the immune system of cattle is particularly notable in young animals.
What adversely affects plants and animals of course can't be good for people either. People living 25 kms. away from another Shell sour gas processing plant at Pincher Creek report headaches, fatigue, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, burning eyes, skin rashes, birth defects, cancer and a variety of problems with nose, sinus and respiratory system including asthma. (A $3.7 million dollar study financed by the Alberta Provincial government concluded that the people in the area of the Pincher Creek sour gas processing plant report more health problems than people living elsewhere simply because they're "anxious" about the sour gas processing plant, or, in other words, that the increased incidence of medical problems they think they're experiencing is supposedly only in their minds. The people in the Pincher Creek area firmly reject the suggestion that their increased medical problems are only in their minds, however, as do scientists from around the world who are on the record as being extremely critical of both the methodology and the conclusions of the Provincial government financed study.)
(It's notable that coincidental with the onset of massive gas and oil exploitation activity in the Lubicon territory during the winter of 1979-80 the Lubicon people started experiencing a significant increase in the same medical problems as those associated with sour gas processing plants including headaches, fatigue, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, burning eyes, skin rashes so serious as to cause permanent scarring, respiratory problems including asthma so severe as to cause heart failure, birth defects, spontaneous abortions, stillbirths and cancers of all kinds. It's been assumed that these horrendous Lubicon medical problems are related to the massive resource exploitation activity commencing in the Lubicon territory during the winter of 1979-80 -- since they didn't exist prior to the onset of that massive resource exploitation activity -- but identification of a more precise cause or causes has remained elusive. While the specific cause of these horrendous Lubicon medical problems still isn't certain it's now clear that the Lubicon medical profile since the onset of massive resource exploitation activity in the traditional Lubicon territory matches almost exactly that of people and animals living in the vicinity of sour gas processing plants located elsewhere. And it's now also known -- as a result of reviewing the literature regarding medical problems associated with sour gas processing plants located elsewhere -- that existing resource exploitation activities in the Lubicon vicinity including oil well flares, the Shell "In Situ" Plant and the Daishowa Kraft Pulp Mill produce the same worrisome sulphurous and other gases as sour gas processing plants.)
All of the above noted medical and environmental problems are of course related to legally allowable, low level concentrations of sulphurous and other gases in the atmosphere. When the concentration of hydrogen sulphide in the atmosphere goes up -- as can happen very rapidly if a problem develops with a sour gas processing plant and a leak occurs -- the resulting health and environmental problems are dramatic, immediately apparent and incontestable by even self-interested oil companies and their cronies in the Alberta Provincial government.
At about 100 ppm people start experiencing irreversible damage to eyes, nose, lungs and nervous system.
At 200 ppm the sense of smell is killed making it impossible to detect the presence of hydrogen sulphide gas, or, in other words, if you stop smelling the noxious rotten egg odour associated with hydrogen sulphide gas it might either be gone or you might be well on your way to being a goner.
Eyes, nose, lungs and nervous system are seriously damaged after 30 minutes of exposure to 500 ppm of hydrogen sulphide gas and death results within 4 to 8 hours.
At 1,000 ppm death occurs instantaneously -- after only one or two breaths.
Correspondence and other materials related to construction of this huge new Unocal sour gas processing plant adjacent to the proposed Lubicon reserve are attached. Background information is as follows:
Last October 8th the Lubicons received a letter from Unocal regarding "Proposed Plant Expansion at Battery Site". The text of the letter said "Unocal plans to install a 27.8 mmacfd gas processing plant and 2400 horsepower compressor on the existing battery site...(and has been)...advised by the Energy Resources Conservation Board that the consent of the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation must be obtained in support of the referenced plant expansion".
The Lubicons did not provide the consent requested by Unocal because they did not want a sour gas processing plant built adjacent to their proposed reserve. Unocal therefore contacted the Lubicons and asked for a meeting.
The first meeting between Unocal and the Lubicons occurred on August 30, 1993. Unocal presented some materials pertaining to the proposed sour gas processing plant and indicated that they would be back in touch with the Lubicons when the project "was better defined and Unocal corporate approval had been received". The Lubicons expressed concern with construction of a sour gas processing plant in their unceded territory and asked for complete information including a reaction from Unocal to reports of serious health problems at the Pincher Creek sour gas processing plant. The requested information was never received.
The second meeting between Unocal and the Lubicons occurred on November 9th. Unocal representatives again mentioned the proposed sour gas processing plant but didn't respond to expressed Lubicon concerns about it saying that it was "down the road" and not of immediate concern. Instead Unocal representatives focused the discussion on "feeder lines" which the Lubicons understood were related to "expansion" of an existing battery station.
"Feeder lines" were discussed again at a third meeting on December 7th. Unocal agreed to respect Lubicon wildlife and environmental concerns with respect to construction of those feeder lines and to consider Lubicons for any resulting employment opportunities especially in the areas of clean-up and restoration. The Lubicons in turn agreed not to oppose a Unocal application to the ERCB specifically with regard to these "feeder lines". (Unocal representatives claim that "the plant process, H2S content of the gas and operating pressures were discussed" at the December 7th meeting "and all safety concerns were alleviated". The Lubicons deny this however and say that Lubicon concerns about the proposed sour gas processing plant were never satisfactorily answered and that they were simply put off with the line that the plant was "down the road" and not of immediate concern.)
On December 9th -- as per agreement reached during the December 7th meeting -- the Lubicons sent Unocal a letter which reads as follows:
Pursuant to your letter of October 08, 1993, regarding Unocal Canada Management Limited's application for proposed plant expansion at the above noted location, and subsequent meetings between representatives of Unocal and the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation during which Unocal confirmed acceptance of (wildlife and environmental) conditions stipulated by the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation, the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation hereby agrees, without prejudice to our aboriginal rights and claims and the legal proceedings instituted by the Lubicon Nation, not to oppose the proposed plant expansion (underlining added).
By "proposed plant expansion" the Lubicons make clear that they understood they were talking only about "feeder lines" for the existing battery station and that they never intended not to oppose construction of a whole new sour gas processing plant. Moreover, contrary to slippery subsequent claims by both Unocal and representatives of the ERCB, there is no mention of constructing a whole new sour gas processing plant anywhere in the December 9th Lubicon letter.
Unocal used this December 9th Lubicon letter with the ERCB as supposed evidence that the Lubicons didn't oppose construction of the new sour gas processing plant. The ERCB accepted this December 9th Lubicon letter agreeing not to oppose "proposed plant expansion" as evidence that the Lubicons did not oppose construction of a whole new sour gas processing plant.
Whether Unocal consciously used the ambiguous term "plant expansion" to deliberately deceive the Lubicons isn't certain although in context the odds seem pretty good that this is what happened. What is certain is that the ERCB used the December 9th Lubicon letter agreeing not to oppose "proposed plant expansion" to grant Unocal "approval to construct and operate the Slave gas plant" -- another curious manoeuvre almost too neat to have been purely accidental.
In early July representatives of Alberta Power advised the Lubicons that Alberta Power had been asked to provide a transformer for a new Unocal sour gas processing plant in the unceded Lubicon territory. Chief Ominayak asked Lubicon advisor Fred Lennarson to check with the ERCB and find out if the ERCB had given Unocal approval to proceed with construction of a new sour gas processing plant in the unceded Lubicon territory.
Fred Lennarson checked with ERCB Gas Processing Plant Supervisor Murray Semchuck and confirmed that the ERCB had given Unocal approval to construct a new sour gas processing plant adjacent to the proposed Lubicon reserve. Chief Ominayak therefore immediately wrote Mr. Semchuck straightening out any possible past miscommunication and making Lubicon opposition to construction of the new Unocal gas processing plant crystal clear. The Chief's letter is dated July 8th and reads as follows:
As Fred Lennarson told you when he spoke to you by phone on July 8th the Lubicon people never agreed not to oppose an application to the ERCB by Unocal to construct a 27.8 mmacfd gas processing plant at 8 & 9-15-84-14 W5M. Nor will we. What we agreed not to oppose was construction of "feeder" or "collection lines".
Unocal wrote us a letter last October 8th requesting our "consent" to "install" such a "gas processing plant" in our unceded traditional territory. We did not provide that consent both because we oppose "installation" of any such plant in our unceded traditional territory and because the Unocal letter typically failed to mention our well known requirement that companies wishing to engage in development activities in our unceded traditional territory must be prepared to agree to respect Lubicon wildlife and environmental concerns and to consider Lubicons for any resulting employment opportunities especially in the areas of clean-up and restoration.
In subsequent meetings Unocal representatives mentioned the "gas processing plant" but did not respond to our expressed concerns about it. Rather they chose to focus the discussion on construction of "feeder" or "collection" lines. They agreed to respect Lubicon wildlife and environmental concerns and to consider Lubicons for any resulting employment opportunities specifically with regard to these "feeder" or "collection" lines. And the Lubicon people agreed not to oppose a Unocal application to the ERCB specifically with regard to these "feeder" or "collection" lines.
While the December 9th letter we sent to Anita Beaudin of Unocal may not capture the nature of our agreement with Unocal representatives as precisely as we would like that was our agreement and Unocal representatives know it. We never agreed not to oppose an application to the ERCB by Unocal to "install" a "gas processing plant" in our unceded territory nor will we. We only agreed not to oppose an application to the ERCB with regard to "feeder" or "collection" lines.
Thus while there might conceivably have been inadvertent miscommunication between Unocal, the Lubicons and the ERCB prior to the Chief's July 8th letter, subsequent distortion and misrepresentation of the Lubicon position by both Unocal and the ERCB can't be dismissed so lightly. Chief Ominayak's July 8th letter regarding Lubicon opposition to the proposed Unocal sour gas processing plant couldn't be more clear.
On July 12th Semchuck phoned Unocal Manager of Alberta Operations Bob Goldie and advised Mr. Goldie of the Lubicon letter of opposition.
On July 13th Semchuck phoned the Lubicons and reported that a copy of the Chief's July 8th letter was being forwarded to Unocal asking Unocal "to comment with respect to the points in Chief Ominayak's letter". Semchuck said that the ERCB needs "to hear the positions from both sides".
Semchuck told the Lubicons that Goldie had been "designated to respond to the Chief's letter by the Unocal team". He said "I want (Lubicon opposition) to be resolved through further dialogue and discussion". He said "Maybe something has been misaligned and we can get it restored fairly quickly".
On July 14th Semchuck wrote Goldie requesting Unocal to respond to Chief Ominayak's July 8th letter. Mr. Semchuck's letter to Mr. Goldie reads, in part:
This will serve to confirm our 12 July 1994 telephone conversation...As you recall, during the Gas Department's review of Application No. 931526, Unocal was requested to provide information regarding the communication that you carried out with Chief Ominayak and the Lubicon people regarding your above referenced project. In your submission dated 7 December 1993 you provided a chronology of the correspondence and communication Unocal had with the Lubicon people during a period of time from August 30th to 7 December 1993.
Based on this information as well as all the required technical and environmental details and data which demonstrated the purpose and necessity for the gas processing plant, the Board issued the gas plant Board Approval No. 7411 to Unocal on 10 February 1994...Chief Ominayak has indicated in his 8 July 1994 letter that there was information exchanged between Unocal and the Lubicon people which emphasized the "feeder" or "collection" lines that would be required for Application No. 931526. He also indicates the following: "In subsequent meetings Unocal representatives mentioned the gas processing plant but did not respond to our expressed concerns about it.
Based on the details provided in your application, the Gas Department recognizes that Unocal and the Lubicon people have endeavoured to communicate and discuss energy related developments and local issues. Therefore, Unocal is hereby requested to review Chief Ominayak's 8 July 1994 letter and address the matters he has raised through a written response to him. We request that you provide the Gas Department with a copy of your written reply.
We understand that Unocal is prepared to proceed with (construction of) the 9-15 gas processing project very shortly. We anticipate receiving a copy of your letter on or before 27 July 1994.
On July 21st the Lubicons received a 38 page fax communication from Unocal covered by a letter dated July 19th. Except for a 4 page chronology purporting to summarize meetings at which the Lubicon people supposedly agreed not to oppose the new sour gas processing plant the 38 page fax communication from Unocal consists essentially of technical information unrelated to the question of Lubicon opposition to the proposed new sour gas processing plant. The cover letter to the 38 page fax was signed for Unocal Manager of Alberta Operations Bob Goldie by a man named Gord Goodman and reads:
Unocal is unclear on the concerns you expressed in your July 08, 1994 letter to Mr. Murray Semchuck of the ERCB.
We believe that during the approval process our discussions and meetings with you and your representatives stressed open and honest communication. This is indicated in notes of meetings involving Unocal and the Lubicon Band representatives, handouts and correspondence. For your reference we have attached copies of these documents together with your (December 9th) letter approving the plant expansion. Also attached are other requirements regarding EPEA and ERCB approval.
For our continued good working relationship, continued good communication is fundamental. If you would elaborate on your concerns for us, we would certainly endeavour to address them.
As Unocal employees, we pride ourselves in maintaining high ethical standards, maintaining a safe and healthful workplace for employees and neighbours in the community, protecting the environment and complying with all regulations while conducting our business activities. You will find the Unocal team working on this area equal to the task.
We would be pleased to review your concerns and meet to discuss them.
On July 27th the first reports of construction at the site of the proposed sour gas processing plant at Lubicon Lake were received -- well after both Unocal and the ERCB had been clearly and unequivocally notified of Lubicon opposition. Thus while there might conceivably have been a misunderstanding about Lubicon opposition to the Unocal sour gas processing plant the previous December, it is not possible for either Unocal or the ERCB to claim misunderstanding at the point that Unocal actually proceeded with crash plant construction at the end of July.
On August 7th, following the report that Unocal had commenced construction of its sour gas processing plant, Chief Ominayak asked Fred Lennarson to phone Murray Semchuck and check the status of the proposed sour gas processing plant. Fred Lennarson reached Mr. Semchuck the following morning.
Semchuck told Fred Lennarson that the ERCB had sent Unocal a letter on July 14th asking for a reaction to the concerns expressed in Chief Ominayak's July 8th letter. Semchuck said that Unocal had replied to the Lubicons in writing on July 21st.
Fred Lennarson told Semchuck that Unocal's July 21st package of materials proved nothing and settled nothing. Lennarson said that Unocal had only provided a pile of paper largely irrelevant to the issue of Lubicon opposition and were simply continuing to assert that the Lubicons had agreed not to oppose the sour gas processing plant while the Lubicons remain adamant that they never agreed not to oppose.
Semchuck said that the July 21st Unocal cover letter indicates that Unocal would be pleased to meet with the Lubicons and discuss any Lubicon concerns. He said that he expected Unocal to follow-up and request a meeting with the Lubicons. He asked if Unocal had followed-up and requested a meeting.
Lennarson told Semchuck that Unocal had not requested a meeting but had instead followed-up by starting construction at the site of the proposed sour gas processing plant.
Semchuck denied knowledge of construction at the site but said that he would immediately check with Bob Goldie and find out about it. He asked Lennarson what the Lubicons wanted the ERCB to do.
Lennarson told Semchuck that the ERCB should convene the public hearing provided in ERCB enabling legislation for persons whose rights are directly and adversely affected by a proposed energy facility. In the meantime, Lennarson said, the Lubicons are preparing to stop the plant from being put into operation by any means necessary.
Semchuck asked for a letter from the Lubicons indicating that they'd reviewed the July 21st Unocal materials, stating that they still oppose construction of Unocal's proposed sour gas processing plant and spelling out their concerns with plant design, the environment or human health.
Lennarson told Semchuck that he doubted the Lubicons would be prepared to become involved in a technical debate intended to produce supposed technical remedies to specific technical problems. He said that the Lubicons are well aware of the technical debate raging elsewhere with one side claiming one thing and the other side claiming something else. In the end, he said, whether one side or the other is factually correct cannot definitively be decided through a debate of conflicting technical information. He said one simply has to make a judgment as to whether one wants to have a sour gas processing plant built in their back yard and it is the judgment of the Lubicon people that they don't want to take a chance with the health of their children.
Semchuck asked whether the Lubicon people would be prepared to consider an alternative site for the proposed sour gas processing plant.
Lennarson told Semchuck that he didn't know whether the Lubicons would be prepared to consider an alternative site -- only that the Lubicons are not prepared to allow construction of a sour gas processing plant in their back yard. He said that he couldn't understand what it was about the Lubicon position which Unocal and the ERCB were having so much trouble comprehending. He told Semchuck that the Lubicons had made very clear that they simply didn't want the plant in their area period.
Semchuck asked if the Chief would be prepared to send the ERCB a letter indicating simply that the Lubicons oppose construction of the proposed sour gas processing plant at the proposed site due to concerns over human health.
Lennarson said that the Lubicons might be prepared to send a letter indicating that they opposed construction of the proposed sour gas processing plant at the proposed site for reasons of the threat it poses to the environment and human health. However, he said, the Lubicons are also concerned about the threat to wildlife and the environment generally and a letter indicating opposition to the proposed sour gas processing plant at the proposed site should not be taken to mean that the Lubicons are prepared to go along with an alternative site in their traditional territory.
Lennarson reported his August 8th phone conversation with Semchuck to Chief Ominayak who immediately faxed Semchuck the following letter:
Pursuant to your phone conversation with Fred Lennarson earlier today this letter is to formally advise the ERCB that the Lubicon people have reviewed the package of materials on the proposed Unocal sour gas plant faxed to us by (Unocal) on July 21st. All these materials show is that we continue to disagree about what was and what was not agreed with regard to Lubicon opposition to the proposed Unocal sour gas plant.
Since this controversy began we have also had the opportunity to review materials from other places regarding the effect of sour gas plants on wildlife, the environment and human health. While these materials are not definitive it is clear that sour gas plants may have very serious effects on wildlife, the environment and human health and the Lubicon people are not prepared to take a chance with the health and well-being of our children.
It is therefore our intention to continue to oppose construction of the proposed Unocal sour gas plant in our traditional territory. In this regard we have been in communication with our friends and allies around the world and have been assured of their support should Unocal attempt to proceed with construction of this proposed sour gas plant in our traditional territory.
On August 18th Alberta Power wrote Chief Ominayak indicating that Alberta Power had applied to the ERCB for approval to construct a new transmission substation to provide power to the proposed Unocal sour gas processing plant and asking the Lubicons to "Please advise the ERCB in writing if you have any concerns or objections regarding the applied-for project". Having previously been in verbal contact with the Lubicons Alberta Power already knew the Lubicon reaction.
On August 19th Chief Ominayak wrote the ERCB as follows:
As we have already advised representatives of Alberta Power Limited the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation strongly opposes Application No. 940704 requesting authority to construct an electric power substation to provide power to the proposed Unocal sour gas plant which we also strongly oppose.
For your information our strong opposition to the proposed Unocal sour gas plant is formally recorded in the attached letter sent to Mr. Murray Semchuck on August 08, 1994.
On August 19th Bob Goldie sent Chief Ominayak a fax communication proposing to meet at the site of the proposed sour gas processing plant on August 24th, to take the Lubicons on a tour of the facility, to serve the Lubicons lunch and to then engage in "a round table discussion of the points you made to the ERCB". (Chief Ominayak was participating in a week-long international Taiga Rescue Network Conference on protection of the boreal forest and didn't see Mr. Goldie's fax until several days later.)
On August 23rd Chief Ominayak received a letter from the ERCB acknowledging receipt of his August 19th letter opposing the Alberta Power application to construct an electric power substation to provide power to the proposed Unocal sour gas processing plant. The letter reads "The ERCB will advise you, in due course, of its consideration of the (Alberta Power) application".
On August 25th Unocal President Fritz Perschon told reporters that the first he'd heard about Lubicon objection to the Unocal sour gas processing plant was a week earlier -- the week of August 15th -- when he supposedly learned from the ERCB that the Lubicons had filed an objection. Previously, he said, it was his understanding that the Lubicons had agreed to the project. (Either Mr. Perschon is not kept informed about major projects being undertaken by the company of which he's president or he's less than truthful in his public pronouncements. Frankly it's hard to imagine that nobody told Mr. Perschon of formal Lubicon opposition to the $10 million dollar plant in fact filed with the ERCB nearly two months earlier on July 8th -- casting into doubt the veracity of other controversial claims made by Mr. Perschon and his Unocal subordinates.)
Also on August 25th Bob Goldie sent Chief Ominayak a second fax reading as follows:
Unocal is pleased to respond to your letter of August 08, 1994 to Murray Semchuck of the Energy Resources Conservation Board. It is the desire of Unocal Canada to continue free and open discussion regarding the Slave Shallow Gas Processing Plant in order to ensure a good level of understanding by all concerned parties.
In order to further foster open communication, Unocal would like to propose that its Slave Shallow Gas Team meet with the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation representatives at their council hall on Tuesday, August 30, 1994 at 1:30 PM or a time more convenient for you. We offer, at this meeting, an opportunity to discuss this project with the Manager of the Asset Team, the Technical Representatives of Unocal and as well a medical doctor who can discuss health issues that have been raised by the Lubicon people.
We hope that this group will be satisfactory to discuss the concerns that you have expressed. If you have other issues that you would like to discuss or would prefer that other individuals attended to provide you with more detailed information, please advise.
I will follow this letter with a phone call to address any arrangements you may wish to make for this meeting.
Chief Ominayak was still participating in the week-long international Taiga Rescue Network Conference when Mr. Goldie's second fax arrived and would not return to his office until the following Monday, August 29th.
On August 26th Mr. Goldie sent a fax communication to the ERCB regarding the Alberta Power application to build an electric power substation to provide electric power to the proposed Unocal sour gas processing plant. The letter reads:
Unocal Canada Limited hereby requests that the ERCB proceed with the above referenced application. In consideration of this request the following two points are presented:
- (Oil field) Customers to be served by this substation are being inconvenienced by the delay to this approval.
- The dispute of the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation with the gas plant at the Slave Shallow Gas Project should be addressed as a separate issue. Unocal Canada is committed to continued communications with the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation.
The introduction of electrical power results in a net reduction in total emissions and noise in the area near the existing Slave Oil Battery and therefore is a net benefit to the environment and the safety of their band members. We expect that this reduction in environmental impact will be welcomed by the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation. (Editors note: The blessings which Unocal intends to bestow upon the Lubicons whether the Lubicons like it or not clearly has no bounds.)
On August 26th it was reported that the huge new $10 million dollar Unocal sour gas processing plant -- construction of which had commenced only a month earlier -- was nearly complete. Workers on the site said that they'd been promised a sizable financial bonus if they could finish it by September 22nd. (Under these circumstances it seems likely that the strategy of both Unocal and the ERCB -- which after all had done absolutely nothing to stop or even suspend construction of a plant adjacent to the proposed Lubicon reserve which they knew was opposed by the Lubicon people -- was simply to present the Lubicons with a fait accompli. Needless to say delivering a fait accompli to people who understandably see such a plant as posing a deadly threat to the health and well-being of their children is a strategy fraught with peril for everyone involved.)
The international Taiga Rescue Network Conference ended on August 28th after passing a unanimous resolution supporting Lubicon opposition to the Unocal sour gas processing plant. The resolution reads, in part:
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the participants of the 2nd Annual International NGO and Indigenous Peoples Conference on Boreal Forests hereby:
- Demand that Unocal immediately stop construction of the sour gas processing plant being built in the unceded Lubicon territory and refrain from any further attempt to inflict this additional horror upon the beleaguered Lubicon society;
- Demand that Alberta Power refuse to provide electric power to the new Unocal sour gas processing plant being constructed in the unceded Lubicon territory;
- Demand that the ERCB have a full public hearing as required by law into construction of the new Unocal sour gas processing plant;
- Make a commitment to ensure that any public hearing held by the ERCB on the new Unocal sour gas processing plant being constructed in the unceded Lubicon territory is well attended by conference participants and is made the focus of international attention and scrutiny;
- Demand that the Governments of Canada and Alberta immediately accept and implement the recommendations of the Lubicon Settlement Commission respecting negotiation and settlement of unceded Lubicon land rights over unceded Lubicon territory;
- Immediately communicate the essence of this resolution to the President of Unocal in Calgary, to the President of Union Oil Company of California, to the President of Alberta Power, to the Chairman of the ERCB, to the Alberta Provincial Premier Ralph Klein and to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien;
- Undertake to involve the organizations represented at the conference in an aggressive, international campaign designed to stop construction of the Unocal sour gas processing plant in the unceded Lubicon territory and to support a fair and equitable settlement of Lubicon land rights.
On August 29th Chief Ominayak returned to his office and reviewed his correspondence including the August 25th fax communication from Bob Goldie proposing a meeting the following day. Contending with a number of matters including the unexpected death by heart attack of Lubicon legal advisor Lew Gurwitz at the Taiga Rescue Network Conference the night before Chief Ominayak asked Fred Lennarson to phone both Bob Goldie and Murray Semchuck, to tell Messrs. Goldie and Semchuck that it was not possible for the Lubicon people to meet the following day and to propose September 12th as an alternative meeting date.
Lennarson phoned Semchuck who was out of the office. Lennarson therefore left a message on Semchuck's answering machine advising Semchuck that it was not possible to schedule a meeting for August 30th and proposing September 12th instead.
Goldie wasn't available by phone either but Lennarson's call was put through to an "operations technologist" named Howard Boyle who was taking Goldie's calls. Lennarson told Boyle that August 30th wasn't possible for the Lubicons but that the Lubicons could meet on September 12th.
Boyle said "One of the people Unocal would like to bring is a medical doctor specializing in emissions named Dr. McDougall". He said "We set the meeting for August 30th because we're trying to schedule the meeting around Dr. McDougall's schedule".
Lennarson told Boyle that the Lubicons aren't asking for the meeting, don't want the plant in any case and therefore don't feel any need to meet with a Unocal specialist in emissions. If Unocal is prepared to meet on September 12th, Lennarson told Boyle, the Lubicons would do them the courtesy of meeting with them.
Boyle said "the 12th sounds good". He said "I'll check with Dr. McDougall and phone you back to confirm".
Shortly thereafter that same day -- August 29th -- Chief Ominayak received a fax communication from Assistant Manager of the ERCB Gas Department G.C. (Gordon) Dunn. Mr. Dunn's letter made absolutely crystal clear where Unocal and the ERCB were heading -- apparently in unison. The letter reads, in part:
As you are aware, we requested Unocal to meet with you and seek resolution of your concerns with respect to the Unocal gas processing facility at 9-15-84-15W5M. As you are also aware, approval of the Unocal gas processing facility was issued from the ERCB in early 1994 after a full review of the application including your letter of 9 December 1993 agreeing not to oppose the construction of the plant (underlining added)...(Editor's note: This was the first time that the ERCB tried to overtly make the improbable leap from likely manipulated Lubicon agreement not to oppose "plant expansion" to claimed Lubicon agreement not to oppose "construction of the plant". In fact the December 9th Lubicon letter said nothing about not opposing "construction of the plant" and Dunn knew it.)
We understand from Unocal that you are prepared to meet with Unocal at a time suitable to yourself. We would encourage you to meet with Unocal as soon as possible so they may hear your concerns and try to deal with them. (Editor's note: Mr. Dunn must have been in communication with somebody at Unocal shortly after Fred Lennarson spoke with Howard Boyle. The so-called Lubicon "concern" to which Mr. Dunn refers is of course Lubicon opposition to having a huge new sour gas processing plant built adjacent to their proposed reserve.)
As the plant is now nearing completion, and as there have been no meetings between Unocal and the Lubicons to date, we have not asked Unocal to suspend construction of its plant. (Editor's note: Undoubtedly related to the fallacious claim made in the first paragraph of the Dunn letter that the Lubicons had earlier agreed not to oppose "plant construction", this gossamer thin, offensively transparent rationale for not asking Unocal to suspend construction of its plant is obviously bogus -- especially when plant construction was in fact begun after it was absolutely clear that ERCB approval of the plant had been granted on the basis of incorrect information. What's of course being clumsily attempted here is the creation of an illusion that there was nothing wrong with ERCB approval of the plant in the first place but that for some inexplicable reason the Lubicons later changed their mind about not opposing construction of a new sour gas plant adjacent to the proposed Lubicon reserve.)
However we may request Unocal to delay the commencement of operations until such time as Unocal meet with you to hear your concerns. We plan to have ERCB staff in attendance at that meeting; however, we would appreciate your cooperation in meeting with Unocal and moving forward with this matter. (Editor's note: Obviously what Mr. Dunn and the ERCB had in mind at this point was a meeting which they could later use to claim that Lubicon concerns had been taken into account before the ERCB officially allows the plant to go into operation. Talk of "delaying the commencement of operations" until such time as Unocal "hears" Lubicon "concerns" makes no sense from any other perspective. Certainly there's no reason to believe from unfolding developments or from the context of the Dunn letter that the ERCB has any intention at all of supporting Lubicon opposition to construction of the plant.)
Also on August 29th Mr. Dunn wrote a letter to Unocal's Bob Goldie. Taken together with Mr. Dunn's August 29th letter to Chief Ominayak, and the way that Unocal and the ERCB were clearly coordinating their approach to the proposed September 12th meeting, it was becoming increasingly clear that Unocal and the ERCB were pursuing a joint strategy to proceed with the plant over Lubicon opposition. Mr. Dunn's letter to Mr. Goldie reads:
We are aware that you contacted Chief Ominayak on 19 August and you followed up with subsequent calls in an effort to meet with Lubicon Lake Indian Nation representatives to discuss the Unocal scheme and to address the matters that Chief Ominayak has raised. The Gas Department understands Chief Ominayak has spoken with you and has requested additional time to consider your request and schedule a meeting.
We believe that through your proposed discussions, the key issues and concerns can be identified and addressed. We recognize that the issues identification process may take some time but this is a vital step given the long term relationship Unocal has had and would continue to have with the Lubicons. (Editor's note: In reading both Dunn letters one has to keep continually reminding oneself that what Mr. Dunn is talking about is unequivocal Lubicon opposition to the huge new Unocal sour gas processing plant being constructed on a crash basis adjacent to the proposed Lubicon reserve.)
We understand that the plant is scheduled to be finished construction on or about 15 September 1994 (two weeks later). While a decision has not been made, please be advised that the Board may request your cooperation in deferring plant start-up if it appears to us that Unocal has not made every reasonable attempt to meet with the Lubicons and hear their concerns (underlining added). (Editor's note: One can only imagine how reassuring it must be to the Lubicons to be told that the ERCB is going to insist that Unocal make "every reasonable attempt to meet with the Lubicons and hear (Lubicon) concerns" before proceeding with a plant which has been constructed on a crash basis after Lubicons objections were known to all concerned.)
On August 30th Howard Boyle phoned Fred Lennarson a couple of times to try and define and limit both participation and the agenda for the September 12th meeting. He first asked about Lubicon agenda suggestions.
Lennarson suggested an open agenda.
Boyle suggested that "the agenda be based on earlier correspondence and discussions".
Lennarson told Boyle that Unocal should make whatever pitch they pleased but that he doubted they would be able to convince the Lubicon people that a sour gas processing plant would be a good thing for Lubicon children and other living things in the Lubicon area.
Boyle asked if Lennarson could be "more specific about Lubicon concerns".
Lennarson told Boyle that the Lubicons have all of the same normal and expected concerns that any other community of people would have with somebody building a sour gas processing plant in their back yard.
Later in the day Boyle phoned Lennarson again and asked what information the Lubicon people wanted Unocal representatives to present at the September 12th meeting. He said that Unocal wanted to know what information the Lubicons needed in order to send the right people to the meeting.
Lennarson again reminded Boyle that the Lubicons didn't request the meeting, don't want the plant in any case and were only agreeing to a meeting out of courtesy.
Boyle said "We'll be about 5". He asked "How many Lubicons will there be".
Lennarson told Boyle that Unocal should bring whomever they please and that the Lubicons would do the same.
On August 30th Murray Semchuck phoned Fred Lennarson, acknowledged the message which Lennarson had left on Semchuck's phone answering machine the day before, said that he too had been informed by Unocal that a meeting was now scheduled for September 12th and said that he thought "the agreement to meet shows good will on both sides".
Lennarson told Semchuck that he didn't see how anybody could possibly accuse Unocal of "good will" when they had proceeded to construct a sour gas processing plant on unceded Lubicon territory which they know is opposed by the Lubicon people.
On August 31st Chief Ominayak received a fax communication from Bob Goldie -- noted copy to "G. Dunn" of the ERCB. Mr. Goldie's August 31st fax to Chief Ominayak confirms the proposed September 12th and reads, in part:
In preparation for this meeting, we would like to emphasize that the construction of the Slave Shallow Gas Plant and tie-in to Alberta Power Limited results in a net reduction in emissions and noise from the site. The total level of emissions from the plant both before and after construction are well within industry guidelines. In an effort to specifically address your health concerns regarding this construction, Unocal Canada Limited's medical representative, Dr. D. McDougall, will be in attendance at this meeting to respond to any questions that you or your representatives may have.
An information package will follow by courier, which is intended to address the concerns you have expressed in your August 08, 1994 letter to the ERCB...
The "information package" promised by Mr. Goldie in his August 31st fax arrived on September 2nd. It made no mention of Lubicon health and environmental concerns but again consisted of maps, charts, plant specifications, approvals, approval terms and conditions and a copy of the December 9th Lubicon letter agreeing not to oppose "proposed plant expansion".
On September 9th Unocal President Fritz Perschon wrote the Toronto Friends of the Lubicon basically reiterating Unocal claims about supposed Lubicon agreement not to oppose the sour gas processing plant, presenting a self-serving version of the exchange between Unocal and the Lubicons since the filing of formal Lubicon opposition to the plant on July 8th (about which Mr. Perschon earlier claimed he did not learn until the end of August) and making demonstrably untrue statements about the historic relationship between Unocal and the Lubicons. Specifically Mr. Perschon wrote:
In 1986 Unocal Canada set out to loop our existing 4" oil sales pipeline which runs through the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation's reserve area. At that time, the Lubicon Nation intervened in Unocal's application on the basis that they did not want any further development on the land which was set aside for their reserve. Unocal respected their request and withdrew its application (Underlining added).
Since that time, Unocal has respected the requests of the Lubicon Nation to be informed on any well drilling or licensing application Unocal filed with the Energy Resources Conservation Board ("ERCB") on work Unocal planned to do in townships 83 and 84. Most of these notifications were done by letter through Mr. Auger. Unocal's working relationship with the Lubicon people has been excellent.
In fact in 1985 Unocal proposed to "twin" or "loop" a pipeline which Unocal had built over Lubicon objections in the first place and made clear their intention to proceed with this "twinning" whether the Lubicons liked it or not. The Lubicons asked the Canadian courts to enjoin the twinning of the pipeline pending settlement of Lubicon land rights and Unocal successfully defeated the Lubicon injunction application in the Canadian courts. Federal Inquiry Officer E. Davie Fulton personally appealed to Unocal not to proceed with the twinning of the pipeline until he could finish his inquiry and Unocal refused Mr. Fulton's request as well. Unocal then only agreed not to twin the pipeline across a particularly sensitive 25 square mile area after the Lubicons announced that they would block the twinning of the pipeline on the ground and Lubicon supporters organized a nation-wide protest over the proposed twinning so massive that Unocal was forced to literally lock the doors of their Canadian headquarters in Calgary and to shut down their telephone switchboard.
Similarly disingenuous and self-serving is Mr. Perschon's claim in his September 9th letter that "Since (the dispute over the twinning of the pipeline) Unocal has respected the requests of the Lubicon Nation to be informed on any well drilling or licensing operation Unocal filed with the Energy Resources Conservation Board ("ERCB") on work Unocal planned to do in townships 83 and 84". In fact, as is clear in the wording of the enclosed October 8th Unocal letter on "proposed plant expansion", Unocal was instructed by the ERCB to consult with the Lubicons about any projects in that part of the traditional Lubicon territory. Moreover the ERCB position that companies had to consult with the Lubicons before making application to the ERCB was in fact itself the result of another hard-won agreement between the Lubicons and the ERCB -- also involving the threat of legal action, political action and direct action.
To the distress of both Unocal and the ERCB the September 12th meeting in Little Buffalo Lake was an open community meeting attended by visiting environmentalists as well as Lubicons.
Unocal was represented at the September 12th meeting by Unocal Manager of Alberta Operations Bob Goldie, Slave Team leader Howard Boyle, Facility Engineering Coordinator (responsible for plant construction) Ken Mislin, Slave Production Foreman Bert St. Martin and Unocal Medical Consultant Dr. David McDougall.
The ERCB was represented at the September 12th meeting by Supervisor of Communication/Projects Rob Barber and by Karen Ulch from Community Relations -- whom, because of their seemingly inseparable, in tandem working style, the Lubicons call collectively Barb Ulch.
The Lubicons were represented by Lubicon Chief and Council supported by Lubicon advisor Lennarson.
Also in attendance were community members and Elaine Bishop, Muriel Summers, John McInnis, Gordon and Lorraine Sinclair, Sheldon Sinclair, Calib Sinclair, Randy Lawrence, Denise and Basil Sych, Gray Jones, Denys Auger and Peter Hope.
Chief Ominayak opened the meeting by indicating that the meeting had been requested by Unocal and therefore suggesting that Mr. St. Martin introduce the Unocal representatives. Goldie immediately took charge by introducing himself as Unocal Manager of Alberta Operations and then introducing the other Unocal representatives.
Following his forceful assertion of leadership and introduction of Unocal representatives Mr. Goldie proceeded to suggest that the other people at the meeting identify themselves and sign a sheet which he proposed to pass around indicating their names, who they represent and also their mailing address. The other people at the meeting then introduced themselves and indicated verbally who they represented but they did not comply with Goldie's order to provide him with their name, address and organizational affiliation in writing.
Goldie said "We're here to respond to Bernard's letters of July 8th and August 8th". He said that the July 8th letter indicated that the Lubicons had some questions about the new plant and that the August 8th letter indicated that the Lubicons had some health concerns". (In fact the July 8th letter expressed opposition to the plant and the August 8th letter said that the Lubicons opposed the plant because of concern over the effect of sour gas processing plants on wildlife, the environment and human health.)
John McInnis said "It's my understanding the plant is completed".
Goldie replied "The plant is largely completed". He then attempted unsuccessfully to launch into a clearly pre-prepared presentation.
Goldie said "We had two meetings with Bernard last August and November to address his concerns". "When we left", he said, "Bernard had no concerns and we made plans to proceed".
Randy Lawrence asked "Do you have anything in writing from those meetings?"
Goldie said "We have correspondence back and forth including agreement in writing from the Lubicons that we could proceed with the plant".
Chief Ominayak said "Mr. Goldie knows better than that". He said "We were talking about feeder lines". He said "We had all kinds of questions about the plant but we were told that's down the road".
Chief Ominayak said "We asked about reports of health problems at the Pincher Creek plant". He said "We were supposed to receive detailed information but it never arrived".
Chief Ominayak said "We also talked about economic benefits from construction of the feeder lines but they never materialized either".
Chief Ominayak said "We don't want Unocal or anybody else putting a sour gas plant in our area". He said "I'm glad the ERCB is here". He said "I'd like to request a public hearing to explore all the questions which arise with sour gas plants". He suggested that Unocal "take it (the plant) to Calgary and put it there".
Fred Lennarson proposed to read the three letters to which Mr. Goldie had referred -- the July 8 letter, the August 8 letter and the December 9th letter in which the Lubicons supposedly agreed not to oppose construction of a new sour gas processing plant -- so that all meeting participants would know what Mr. Goldie was talking about.
Chief Ominayak agreed with Lennarson's proposal and asked that the letters be read aloud.
Lennarson then read the three letters noting that supposed Lubicon agreement in writing pertained specifically to "proposed plant expansion" which the Lubicons understood to be feeder lines instead of the construction of a new sour gas processing plant, and noting also that plant construction began after Chief Ominayak's July 8th letter had made crystal clear that the Lubicons opposed construction of a sour gas processing plant in their unceded traditional territory.
Referring to Lennarson's comment about plant construction starting after explicit notice that the Lubicons opposed the plant Goldie aggressively said to Lennarson "On site".
Lennarson asked "Where else would plant construction occur except on site?"
Goldie said "Modules were constructed in Edmonton and then moved to the site".
Lennarson said that the point remained the same -- modules had been moved to the site and assembled after Lubicon opposition to plant construction in the unceded Lubicon territory had been made crystal clear.
Councillor Walter Whitehead asked "Can it be moved again?"
Goldie said "We're here to talk about health concerns".
Denys Auger said to Goldie "You're not listening to our concerns".
Peter Hope asked "How was the site selected?"
Goldie said "We selected the site because it was already largely serviced and we didn't have to do any additional clearing".
Chief Ominayak said "You built it on our doorstep -- where we're trying to build a future for our young people".
Goldie said "When we met in 1986 and you asked us to withdraw our application to loop our pipeline we withdrew it". Echoing Perschon's September 9th letter to the Toronto Friends of the Lubicon he said "We have a history of cooperation with the Lubicon people -- good rapport". (Just who Goldie was trying to convince with such arguments isn't exactly clear -- maybe the environmentalists. Certainly both the Lubicons and the representatives of the ERCB knew better.)
Chief Ominayak told Goldie "The problem is that you're killing our people and taking everything and it has to stop". He said "You brought up the pipeline". He said "I'd be glad if you took it with you when you leave".
Goldie said "We have a doctor here to address your concerns".
Chief Ominayak asked Gray Jones to speak to the question of the impact of sour gas processing plants.
Gray Jones read a summary of sour gas plant impacts prepared by Kevin Jardine of Greenpeace.
Chief Ominayak asked Gray Jones about a report that Unocal is facing 67 charges in the U.S. for violating environmental laws.
Goldie asked indignantly "Are we here to address charges or medical concerns?"
Jones said "The record of the company is a relevant consideration in assessing the claims you make about health concerns".
Ignoring the report that Unocal faced 67 charges for violating environmental laws in the U.S. Goldie said "Anything we do is within the guidelines".
Councillor Dwight Gladue demanded angrily "Answer the question".
Goldie asked "What's the question?"
Dwight Gladue said "Can the plant be moved?"
Goldie said "Anything can be moved".
Chief Ominayak said "We have serious medical problems already as a result of development activity". He said "We can't afford any more". He said "You brought a doctor with you and you can write his script". He said "We can do the same thing". "But in the end", he said, "we still have these same serious medical problems". He said "We're going to fight whether the ERCB holds a hearing or not".
Karen Ulch said "We've heard Unocal can move it". She asked "What other options are there?"
Chief Ominayak said "What Unocal does is up to Unocal as long as they take the plant out of here".
Ulch asked "Are you prepared to consider other sites?"
John McInnis said "I thought all community concerns are to be addressed before the ERCB makes an approval?"
Ulch said "It was our understanding they were dealt with".
Fred Lennarson said "Giving Unocal the benefit of the doubt there was confusion over words". "When the Lubicons agreed not to oppose plant expansion", he said, they were talking about not opposing construction of feeder lines". "When Unocal used the term plant expansion", he said, "they were apparently talking about construction of a new sour gas processing plant". He said that he had an easier time understanding how the Lubicons could think that plant expansion meant feeder lines than how Unocal could think that plant expansion meant the construction of a whole new plant but that he was more interested in resolving the question of what to do with an unacceptable plant which was approved by the ERCB based on incorrect information than he was in ascribing blame.
McInnis asked "Was it a new approval or an amended approval?"
Rob Barber said "It was a new approval".
McInnis said "How can it be a new approval when the project is plant expansion?"
Barber said "There was a problem with words". He said "We acknowledge now that there are concerns and we hope to proceed to solve the problems".
Bob Goldie said aggressively "I want to tell our side and then Bernard can tell his side".
Chief Ominayak said "Our position is clear". He said "We need a public hearing or we will have to consider alternatives". He said "We don't want the plant".
Barber said "Our position is when we have two parties with concerns we can have a hearing". "But", he said, "we hope to address those concerns short of a hearing".
Chief Ominayak said "Unocal wants to build a plant in our area when these plants are causing problems all over the Province". He said "We want Goldie to understand that we will fight".
Barber said "I wouldn't want a plant in my back yard either unless my concerns could be addressed and there would be some benefits".
Chief Ominayak said "Our concerns cannot be addressed except by taking the plant out of our area". He repeated "We don't want the plant".
Barber said "Is there any way we can talk about these issues?"
Denys Auger said "The Lubicon people want the plant out of here".
Barber asked "No matter what?"
Chief Ominayak told Barber that the Lubicon people want the plant out of the Lubicon territory "No matter what". He said "If we can achieve our objective through a hearing bringing out the human issues that have to be dealt with, fine". "I don't know if we can achieve a satisfactory resolution through that process", he said, "but we're prepared to try". He said "We're not the one to develop alternatives (for removing the plant)". He said "It's up to Unocal to explore alternatives".
Barber asked "If we had information you trusted that said no problem, would your position be the same?"
Fred Lennarson said that the kind of certainty Barber was suggesting was impossible to provide -- that the impact of sour gas processing plants is controversial but that the potential health concerns are very serious. Consequently, he said, the Lubicon people aren't prepared to gamble the health of their children for some supposed economic benefits.
Karen Ulch said "What we're hearing is that there's no option". She said "That's what we're looking for -- an option". She said "That's why we came here and we're hearing there's no mediation possible".
Fred Lennarson said "The Lubicon people never agreed to a mediation meeting". He said "Unocal requested the meeting at the urging of the ERCB and the Lubicon people agreed to meet but the Lubicon people never agreed to negotiations or mediation of any kind". He said "On instructions of Chief Ominayak I made the Lubicon position clear to both Murray Semchuck of the ERCB and to Howard Boyle".
Barber said "Unocal thought we were talking about a new plant and the Lubicons thought we were talking about feeder lines -- that's the communication problem".
Chief Ominayak said "There was no communication problem". He said "We agreed to feeder lines". He said "We would never agree to a sour gas plant".
Barber said "I would hope you would listen to Unocal to see if they have information that you don't have -- does Unocal have any ideas on how to proceed?"
Randy Lawrence said "You seem to be suggesting that the Band and Unocal sit down and talk". He said "I understand the plant will be finished by September 22nd and that the workers will be given a sizable bonus if it's completed by September 22nd". He asked "Would you be prepared to stop plant construction while we engaged in a community consultation process?"
Fred Lennarson pointed out to Randy Lawrence that the only conceivable purpose of community consultation would be to reach an understanding regarding the terms under which it would be possible to proceed with the plant when the Lubicons had made crystal clear that they are not prepared to accept the plant under any circumstances.
Chief Ominayak said "Our position is very clear". He said "Whether Unocal can move the plant to another location is for Unocal to decide". He said "We don't want the plant in our territory".
Chief Ominayak said "We have serious health and environmental concerns". "Whether the ERCB is going to have a hearing or not", he said, "we are not going to stand by and have that plant put into operation". He said "We are not going to listen to a bought-and-paid-for doctor tell us that there's not a problem". He said "We know there's a problem already and we're not prepared to proceed with this plant".
Karen Ulch said "From the ERCB's point of view we have a problem of conflicting rights".
Fred Lennarson told Ulch that the problem is far more profound than something which can simply be adjudicated by the ERCB. He said that the underlying problem is one of contested jurisdiction and ownership over lands and resources and whether the Province had the right to sell unceded Lubicon resources to Unocal in the first place. He said that ERCB involvement in the area as an agency of the Provincial government is the result of an agreement negotiated between the Lubicons and the ERCB in order to let people get through the day with a minimal amount of damage to involved interests while the bigger question of land ownership and jurisdiction is hopefully sorted out.
Goldie said "That's why we came to the Lubicons and asked for permission".
Lennarson told Goldie that making things up as he went along did little to enhance his personal credibility or to advance the interests of his company in the area. He told Goldie "You came to the Lubicons because you were instructed to do so by the ERCB pursuant to the earlier mentioned agreement negotiated between the Lubicons and the ERCB". In this regard Lennarson noted for the benefit of the meeting the first paragraph of Unocal's October 8th letter which reads:
"We (Unocal) have been advised by the Energy Resources Conservation Board that the consent of the Lubicon Lake Nation must be obtained in support of the referenced plant expansion".
Moreover, Lennarson said, Goldie had similarly misrepresented the 1985-86 dispute over the twinning of the pipeline as a good will meeting during which Unocal graciously agreed not to twin the pipeline because the Lubicons objected. In fact, Lennarson said, the Lubicons objected to the twinning of the pipeline and Unocal ignored them. He said that the Lubicon people went to court to try and stop the twinning of the pipeline and Unocal successfully beat back the Lubicon legal challenge. He said that Federal Inquiry Officer E. Davie Fulton made a personal plea to Unocal to not proceed with the twinning of the pipeline while Mr. Fulton finished his inquiry and that Unocal, in a manoeuvre reminiscent of current Unocal tactics regarding the new sour gas processing plant, only agreed to meet with the Lubicons to inform them about all of the supposed benefits of twinning the pipeline. In the end, he said, Unocal only backed-off after the Lubicons threatened to stop the twinning of the pipeline on the ground and Lubicon supporters organized a protest of such magnitude that Unocal was forced to shut down their telephone switchboard, lock-up the Calgary headquarters and ask the Lubicons for a meeting during which there was a negotiated agreement providing that Unocal would not loop the pipeline across a particularly sensitive 25 square mile area.
Chief Ominayak reiterated "We don't want the plant -- hearing or otherwise".
Rob Barber said "Hearings are win or lose". He said "We would prefer a negotiated settlement". He said "Perhaps that's not possible".
Barber said "I would like to get back to Bernard later this week on the question of a hearing". He said "I understand the position of the two parties". He asked Chief Ominayak "Who shall I call -- you or Fred?"
Chief Ominayak said "Either although Fred might be easier to reach".
John McInnis asked "What happens to construction in the meantime?" He said "I'm not a lawyer but with a decision pending no prejudicial action should be taken".
Karen Ulch said "I don't know what can be done".
McInnis asked Goldie "What is Unocal's position on stopping construction?"
Goldie said "We'll consider our position tomorrow".
Randy Lawrence asked "When will you get back to the Band?"
Goldie said "We'll get back to the ERCB".
Denys Auger asked "Don't you want to deal with the Band?"
Goldie said "We will respond to both the ERCB and the Band tomorrow".
Goldie offered to help with the community medical problems mentioned earlier by Chief Ominayak.
Chief Ominayak said "The help we need from Unocal is to get your plant out of our territory".
The following day Rob Barber told John McInnis that McInnis spoke out of turn at the meeting -- that there's information on the ERCB file which McInnis didn't have -- that McInnis wouldn't take the same position if he had the information on the situation which Barber has.
McInnis asked Barber what information Barber was talking about. Barber said that there were letters on file in which Chief Ominayak specifically approved a sour gas plant.
McInnis asked Barber for copies of any letters in which Chief Ominayak specifically approved a sour gas processing plant.
On September 14th Karen Ulch phoned McInnis and left a message on McInnis' phone answering machine. Ulch said that the ERCB could not provide McInnis with correspondence to which Barber had referred the day before. She said that McInnis would have to receive copies of any correspondence from the Lubicons.
McInnis contacted the Lubicons and asked about the letters to which Barber had referred. He was told no such letters existed. He therefore phoned Barber and told Barber that the Lubicons said no such letters existed.
Barber phoned McInnis back later and read the December 9th letter in which Chief Ominayak agrees not to oppose "proposed plant expansion". McInnis pointed out to Barber that Barber had just read the December 9th letter which Fred Lennarson read to the September 12th meeting. McInnis asked Barber why Barber had suggested there was something else about which McInnis did not know.
Barber told McInnis "Now you see why there was miscommunication between Unocal and the Lubicon". McInnis told Barber that the problem did not seem to be miscommunication.
On September 15th Fred Lennarson received a telephone call from Barb Ulch -- both of them on a speaker phone. (Subsequent calls from Barb Ulch were also joint affairs on their speaker phone.)
Barber said "We talked to (ERCB) management and they suggested some things we can do". He said "They suggested we get together in a smaller working group to talk about the issues". He asked "What's your reaction".
Lennarson told Barber that he would tell Chief Ominayak that the ERCB's response to the perfectly legitimate and reasonable Lubicon request for a public hearing is to propose a small working group meeting to again try to convince the Lubicons that a sour gas processing plant is good for them.
Barber said "We want to make sure all the options are considered". He said "We want to see if we can define the issues".
Barber said "We think we need a smaller setting". He said "We need to write down on a blackboard what the issues are". He said "We need to see if we can solve them".
Barber said "We're looking for a willingness to sit down and discuss the issues". He said "A hearing is not a good place to discuss the issues".
Lennarson asked Barber if Unocal had suspended plant construction (which Lennarson knew from other sources Unocal had not done).
Barber said that he thought Unocal had suspended plant construction but that Lennarson would have to check with Goldie.
Barber continued "We didn't think a meeting that size (the size of the 9-12th meeting) works to discuss the issues". He said "We need a small group -- one or two people from the Band, one or two people from the ERCB and one or two people from Unocal".
Barber said "The people don't need to be senior people". "For example", he said, "Karen and I (Barb Ulch) would be representing the ERCB".
Barber said "We need to keep things from getting political". He said "If the Chief is really concerned about health issues we think they can be solved but not in a room full of 12 people".
Fred Lennarson told Barber "If the ERCB is really concerned about solving problems you can start by taking the perfectly legitimate and understandable concern of the Lubicon people over the health of their children at face value". He said "Anybody having a sour gas processing plant built in their back yard would have similar concerns".
Ulch impatiently explained to Lennarson "What we're saying is that we think health issues can be solved if that is really the Lubicon concern".
Lennarson told Ulch that he'd let her know if he ever felt the need for her to explain anything to him. He said that he was offended and angered at the suggestion that the Lubicon people have some kind of ulterior motive and are merely using concern over the health of their children as a political ploy -- especially given serious Lubicon medical problems and the fact that the ERCB granted Unocal a license to construct a huge new sour gas processing plant across the road from the proposed Lubicon reserve following questionable procedures and based on incorrect information. He said that the people who work for the ERCB may be prepared to use the issue of the health of their children to seek unrelated political advantage but that the Lubicon people don't do such things and that no decent human being would do such a thing.
Barber said "I'm sorry that you've taken what we're saying out of context".
Lennarson told Barber that he'd taken nothing out of context. He said that he would report to Chief Ominayak exactly what Barber had said in exactly the words Barber had used. However, he said, he doubted that the Chief would react differently or any more positively to the transparent and offensive political games Barber was playing.
Shortly thereafter Lennarson received a phone call from Bob Goldie. Goldie was much more careful with his choice of words -- almost as though he'd been advised of Lennarson's angry reaction to the earlier call from Barb Ulch.
Goldie said "We've been going over this thing that happened and talking about the way we can get together and solve problems without ERCB involvement". (Goldie's tone was different -- more sensitive and savvy -- but it was clear that Unocal didn't want a public hearing on the sour gas processing plant any more than their colleagues at the ERCB.)
Goldie said "We want to talk about things we can mutually agree upon and not move backwards". (Also like the people at the ERCB Goldie wanted another meeting to discuss how to proceed with the plant).
Goldie said "If they (the ERCB) don't call a hearing we'll be happy but we know the Chief won't be happy". He said "I was distressed about what the Chief said (during the September 12th meeting) about stopping the plant by the hearing or otherwise".
Fred Lennarson told Goldie that the Lubicon people had their back to the wall and that anybody who didn't take what they said seriously was a fool. Lennarson said that he'd spoken to two fools from the ERCB only an hour earlier who'd suggested to him that the Lubicons are using the issue of the health of their children as a political ploy.
Goldie said "We genuinely thought we had an agreement with Bernard last year but I guess we weren't communicating". He said "We believe that the emissions from the plant are minor but we don't want to make things worse".
Goldie said "We want to sit down with Bernard and our President to try and solve problems". He said "We truly want to talk with the intention of coming to some ground better than it is right now".
Goldie said "We don't want the (ERCB) Board to approve but still have a problem with the Lubicons". He said "Everybody has to be happy".
Lennarson told Goldie that he would transmit the message but that he doubted the Lubicons will agree to having a sour gas processing plant across the road from their community under any circumstances. In any case, he said, any agreement negotiated with the Lubicons prior to settlement of Lubicon land rights is by definition a temporary stop gap measure dealing with symptoms without addressing causes. He said that anybody wishing to do business in the Lubicon territory should push the government to settle so that everybody's rights are properly defined and agreements can therefore be made which can be relied upon over the longer term.
Lennarson said anybody who thinks that they'll have unrestricted access to Lubicon resources by destroying the Lubicon society doesn't know history and doesn't understand the kind of monster they'd be creating. He said destroying the Lubicon society would eliminate the only legitimate, credible authority in the area with whom one could make binding agreements upon which one could depend.
Goldie said "We can help". He said "We have a Health and Safety Department which can identify and deal with the cause of Lubicon health problems". (Given that the cause of Lubicon health problems is almost certainly massive resource exploitation activity of which Unocal is a part -- and which neither the companies nor the Province will ever admit is the cause of things like cancers, spontaneous abortions and stillbirths -- it's very hard to imagine how this would work.)
Lennarson repeated that there'd be no real resolve on any front until there's a settlement of Lubicon land rights.
Goldie asked if Lennarson would help arrange a meeting with Chief Ominayak and Unocal President Perschon. He said "I can be available all next week".
Lennarson said again that he'd carry the message that Goldie and Perschon wanted a meeting but that he could not guarantee that the Lubicons would agree to another meeting to discuss proceeding with a plant which they had made clear they do not want located in their traditional territory.
On September 19th Chief Ominayak asked Fred Lennarson to phone both Barb Ulch and Bob Goldie and advise them that the Lubicons could see no purpose in another meeting to discuss proceeding with a sour gas processing plant which the Lubicon people oppose. Goldie was not available so the message was left with his secretary. Barb Ulch answered Fred Lennarson's call on their speaker phone.
Lennarson told Barb Ulch that Chief Ominayak asked him to call and advise the ERCB that the Lubicon people see no purpose in another meeting to discuss proceeding with a sour gas processing plant which the Lubicon people oppose. He said that the Chief had also asked him to reiterate the Lubicon request for a public hearing.
Barber said "We would like Bernard to put something in writing to the (ERCB) Board saying you formally object in writing".
Lennarson said "You already have it -- the July 8th letter to Semchuck makes clear Lubicon opposition to the Unocal sour gas processing plant".
Barber said "I have direction from (ERCB) management that we need a letter indicating opposition, specifying the reasons and asking for a hearing". He said "You might want to consider something more specific than environmental and health concerns". He said you might itemize concerns with flares, pipelines or emissions". (The purpose of requesting specifics is of course so that Unocal can respond with supposed technical remedies.)
Lennarson told Barber that he'd report the ERCB request to the Lubicons -- which he then did. After receiving Lennarson's report Chief Ominayak immediately faxed the following letter to Murray Semchuck:
Rob Barber asked that we write the ERCB again reiterating our opposition to construction of the Unocal sour gas processing plant Application No. 931526, providing additional detail regarding the reasons for our opposition and repeating our request for a public hearing. We note that Mr. Barber makes this obviously redundant request while Unocal rushes to complete construction of the plant and presume that Mr. Barber's transparent efforts to buy time are not unrelated to Unocal's crash construction efforts.
Needless to say it's not lost on the Lubicon people that stopping the plant will be harder to accomplish once the plant is completed -- especially since the ERCB was formally advised of Lubicon opposition to construction of the plant prior to commencement of crash construction efforts complete with the promise of a big bonus for construction workers if they finish the plant by September 22nd. Neither will it be lost on people from across the country and around the world monitoring this situation and variously planning to participate in a full public review of serious health and environmental concerns related to this plant and sour gas processing plants generally, the questionable basis of the ERCB approval of the plant, the circumstances under which the plant has been hurriedly constructed, lack of any ERCB action to suspend construction of the plant after being formally advised of Lubicon opposition which had the effect of buying time for Unocal while crash plant construction efforts proceeded, the right of the Alberta Provincial Government to sell Unocal natural resources from the unceded Lubicon territory in the first place and the genocidal consequences for the Lubicon people of massive resource exploitation activity in the unceded Lubicon territory by multi-national resource exploitation companies and their cronies in the Alberta Provincial Government.
The Lubicon people therefore formally reiterate our opposition to construction of the Unocal sour gas processing plant in our traditional territory. We formally repeat that the basis of our opposition is not a technical and specific problem which can hypothetically be addressed by a specific technical remedy but widely reported adverse health and environmental consequences associated with sour gas processing plants which continue to exist no matter what supposed technical remedies are applied. And we again formally request the public hearing provided in the Board's enabling legislation for persons whose rights are directly and adversely affected by a proposed energy facility.
Later in the day on September 19th Lennarson received a telephone call from an obviously agitated Bob Goldie. Goldie demanded to know "Is the message under no circumstances will the Lubicons consider a meeting with Unocal?"
Lennarson told Goldie "The message is that the Lubicons see no purpose in another meeting to discuss proceeding with a sour gas processing plant which they oppose".
Goldie demanded to know "If we decide there's no way to move the plant and produce gas they won't meet with us?"
Lennarson repeated "The message is that the Lubicons see no purpose in another meeting to discuss proceeding with a sour gas processing plant which they oppose".
Goldie told Lennarson "This is important!" He demanded to know "Do they object to the emissions, not the plant?"
Lennarson told Goldie that Lubicon concerns are less specific and technical and pertain generally to reported adverse health effects of sour gas processing plants upon human health and the environment.
In rapid fire order Goldie then demanded to know:
- "Are they aware of the minimum amount of emissions from this plant?"
- "Do they know how much SO2 is going up the stack?"
- "Do they know the difference between the amount of SO2 from different plants?"
- "Are they cognizant how much SO2 is going up the stack and they don't like it?"
Lennarson told Goldie that the Lubicon people are well aware of the technical debate raging over the effects of sour gas processing plants elsewhere and have no intention of risking the health of their children based on questionable assurances that widely reported problems either don't exist or can be solved. He told Goldie that the Lubicons would undoubtedly be prepared to reconsider their position if somehow there develops a scientific and public consensus that reported problems either don't exist or have been solved.
Goldie demanded to know "If I take all the emissions away from this plant will the Lubicons withdraw their objections?".
Assuming that Goldie's question was intended to solicit a response which Goldie could characterize as the Lubicons being concerned about something other than potential health problems, Lennarson asked "Is that technically possible?"
Goldie told Lennarson "It may be". He said "That's why I think it's important that I or somebody talk to the Lubicons directly". (A number of environmentalists consulted after the call from Goldie all doubted the technical possibility of "zero emissions". In addition they all pointed out that emissions are only part of the potential health and environmental problem with sour gas processing plants.)
Goldie said "If we go to a hearing and get approval to proceed we still have to deal with the Lubicons". He said "All we want to do is listen and meet any concerns". He said "We are exploring all options".
Lennarson told Goldie that he would report what Goldie had said to the Lubicons.
On September 20th Lennarson received a fax communication from Karen Ulch confirming the phone conversation which she and Barber had with Lennarson the day before. Ulch's fax continues the pretence that transparent ERCB stalling tactics are a legitimate procedural matter. It repeats the self-serving ERCB characterization of the December 9th Lubicon letter as "expressing no concerns regarding Unocal's gas processing proposal". Interestingly it also broadens the suggested list of items to be included in the Lubicon letter requesting a hearing to generally reflect the items actually listed in the letter already sent to Semchuck by Chief Ominayak the day before.
The September 20 Ulch fax reads as follows:
As discussed in our telephone conversation of today on 19 September 1994, if you are requesting a formal review of Unocal's gas plant approval, we suggested the Lubicon Band write a letter to the Board outlining specifically the reasons for the objections to the Unocal Gas Plant (ie., flaring, H2S/S02 emissions, and/or pipeline related concerns). We have added a few other items that should also be addressed in your letter of objection to the Board if they apply:
- if you were misled about the scheme,
- if you were not provided with the appropriate information,
- if you did not know the plant would process sour gas,
- if you did not know there would be S02 emissions, and;
therefore, the Band sent the 9 December 1993 letter expressing no concerns regarding Unocal's gas processing proposal.
In addition, please state what communication and resolution options/alternatives the Lubicon Band would be prepared to consider to re-establish dialogue with Unocal. Also provide the reason(s) why they are not willing to consider the option of the meeting proposed by the ERCB's Edmonton Area Office staff (Barb Ulch).
You are requested to state what course of action you wish the Board to take in these matters. The Board would have to receive compelling information in writing before it could begin to re-consider Unocal's plant approval.
Lennarson immediately responded to the Ulch fax with a fax of his own. The Ulch fax was entitled "LUBICON LAKE INDIAN NATION OBJECTION TO UNOCAL GAS PLANT". Lennarson's reply was entitled "Misrepresentations and distortions of earlier communications" and reads as follows:
On September 12th the duly elected leader of the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation formally and unequivocally requested that the ERCB conduct a public hearing on the Unocal sour gas processing plant being constructed in unceded Lubicon territory. You know it because Chief Ominayak made his formal request for an ERCB hearing of you and your colleague Rob Barber at a meeting during which you and Mr. Barber, working in tandem with your colleagues from Unocal, aggressively tried to talk the Lubicons out of requesting such a public hearing.
Mr. Barber responded to Chief Ominayak's legitimate September 12th request for a public hearing by promising an answer by the end of the week. However instead of delivering the promised answer to the Chief's formal request for a public hearing by the end of the week you and Mr. Barber waited until the end of the week and then jointly on your speaker phone proposed further meetings to discuss proceeding with a plant which the Lubicon people had made abundantly clear they wanted to be the subject of a public hearing.
On September 19th the Lubicons expressly declined your proposal for further meetings about proceeding with the unacceptable plant and reiterated their request for a public hearing. Mr. Barber and you, again jointly on your speaker phone, asked for a letter from the Lubicons again formally requesting that the ERCB hold a public hearing. It is this September 19th phone conversation to which you refer in your September 20th letter (fax) re: LUBICON LAKE NATION OBJECTION TO UNOCAL GAS PLANT.
The sentence in your September 20th letter (fax) which reads "if you are requesting a formal review of Unocal's gas plant approval" thus creates a totally erroneous albeit self-serving impression about the nature of prior communications between us. Moreover it's not the only example of self-serving distortion and misrepresentation in your September 20th letter (fax).
More perverse still is the sentence in your September 20th letter (fax) reading "and therefore the Band sent the 9 December 1993 letter expressing no concerns regarding Unocal's gas processing proposal". As we both know there is absolutely no reference in the December 9th letter to a "gas processing proposal". The subject of the December 9th letter is "plant expansion at Battery Site" which the Lubicons understood to be feeder lines -- not a gas processing plant -- all of which was discussed and explained at length in your presence during the meeting on September 12th. It is inconceivable that you could have misunderstood the December 12th discussion of the December 9th letter.
On September 23rd Bob Goldie phoned to inquire as to whether Fred Lennarson was able "to line up a meeting with Bernard Ominayak for us". Lennarson was out of the office but replied the next day advising Mr. Goldie that Mr. Goldie's message about "zero emissions" had been transmitted to the Lubicons but that Chief Ominayak was out of the office and had not yet responded.
On September 24th it was reported that there were fewer workers at the site of the Unocal sour gas processing plant and that they are now all wearing matching blue hardhats and blue overalls -- the uniform of Unocal plant workers as distinct from the greater number of variously attired construction workers previously on the site. This information presumably means that plant construction had been completed and Unocal plant workers are preparing to put the plant into operation.
On September 27th Chief Ominayak received a hand delivered letter from Unocal President Fritz Perschon. The letter from Fritz Perschon reads:
I am writing you to attempt to resolve some of the concerns expressed by you on behalf of your people in your letters of July 8, August 8, and August 19, 1994 to the Energy Resources Conservation Board and those concerns expressed by you and your people at our meeting in (Little) Buffalo Lake, September 12, 1994.
We have attempted without success, through Fred Lennarson, to arrange a meeting between you and me to attempt a resolution of your concerns.
Firstly, you are concerned about the effects of sour gas plants on wildlife, the environment and human health. I think it would be fair to say that we have attempted to allay your concerns, but so far without much success. What we propose now is to have you retain an acknowledged expert of your choice to provide you with advice with respect to those concerns. Unocal would be prepared to bear the reasonable costs of such expert and the only condition Unocal suggests is that whatever expert is retained, he or she be one that all parties agree possessed the necessary credentials and experience to provide the advice sought.
With respect to Unocal's commitment to consider the Lubicon community members for employment, we are pleased to report that commencing last weekend (a couple of days earlier), at least six Lubicon Band members have been hired to clear the right of way for the south leg of the pipeline gathering system. As you know, we have attempted in the past with varying degrees of success to use, or have our contractors use, Lubicon Band members to do work associated with the construction of the gas plant and the flow lines to it. Unocal is certainly prepared to consider any mechanism which you might suggest to ensure your members have the opportunity to secure work. It makes sense to Unocal to use locally available employees and contractors for the project wherever possible.
To that end if the Lubicon so desire it, Unocal is prepared to provide professional business advice on how to bid on its work, how to set up a contracting firm or firms to provide the services required by Unocal, as well as provide training for specific targeted jobs in our operations.
It is Unocal's sincere wish that our gas gathering and processing project, which will be providing benefits to Unocal, and to the people of Alberta, will also provide benefits to the Lubicon.
We understand that the Lubicon Nation may still wish to have an opportunity to present its concerns to the E.R.C.B. at a hearing. But because hearings tend to be adversarial and (echoing Barb Ulch) lead to win-lose situations, Unocal would respectfully suggest that it would be in both parties best interest to avoid a hearing. However, whether or not there is a hearing, Unocal wants to ensure that the benefits of our project to the Lubicon are maximized. You may have some ideas in this regard that we haven't even considered. But as President of the Company I would like to re-open the lines of communication with you as Chief of the Lubicon Indian Nation.
Chief Ominayak responded to President Perschon's September 27th letter later that same day. The Chief's response reads as follows:
I am in receipt of your 9-27 letter regarding (Unocal's) Slave Lake Gas Processing Plant which was hand delivered to my office earlier today. My reactions are as follows.
You say that you are writing "to attempt to resolve some of the "concerns" which I expressed on behalf of the Lubicon people in my letters to the ERCB dated July 8th, August 8th and August 19th as well as "those concerns" which I expressed on behalf of the Lubicon people during the meeting with representatives of Unocal and the ERCB on September 12th. As I made clear in all of those letters and during the September 12th meeting the only way that the health and environmental concerns of the Lubicon people will be resolved is for Unocal to take your sour gas processing plant out of our traditional territory.
You say that you have attempted without success through Fred Lennarson to arrange a further meeting with me "to attempt a resolution of (my) concerns". These attempts to arrange a further meeting with me through Fred Lennarson were unsuccessful because I specifically instructed Fred Lennarson to advise you that I saw no useful purpose in another meeting to discuss proceeding with a sour gas processing plant which the Lubicon people oppose -- a message which is as simple and as clear-cut as the message that the Lubicon people do not want your sour gas processing plant in our traditional territory.
You offer to cover the costs of an acknowledged expert of our choice to advise us with respect to our health and environmental concerns. We are interested in this offer but only with the understanding that the conclusions of this acknowledged expert will be presented in a full public hearing examining all aspects of your sour gas processing plant -- not as a way of meeting ERCB legal requirements short of a full public hearing whatever the presumably controversial conclusions of such an expert might be.
You indicate that a couple of days ago you hired a half-a-dozen Lubicon people to work on "the south leg of the pipeline gathering system" and you imply that this development might represent the possible beginning of a cooperative relationship between Unocal and the Lubicon people which could yield jobs, training and other potential economic benefits for the Lubicon people. Even though it might be possible for you to convince a few of our people to work for you the Lubicon people as a whole, as represented through the duly elected Lubicon Chief and Council, are not prepared to jeopardize the health and well-being of our children for some supposed economic benefits.
You conclude that Unocal would like "to re-open lines of communication" with the Lubicon people. Communication and cooperation based on mutual respect is our preference in dealing with people who wish to operate in our unceded traditional territory while we continue trying to resolve our long-standing jurisdictional dispute with the Government of Canada. People who try to outsmart, outmanoeuvre or mousetrap us into things which we sincerely believe to be profoundly contrary to our interests as a people force us to fight with them as well as with the Government -- something which we would like to avoid if possible but which we're prepared to do if we're given no choice.
The Lubicon people are not prepared to allow Unocal to operate a sour gas processing plant across the road from the area where our people have lived for countless generations and where we've been seeking to have a reserve established for over 50 years. If Unocal keeps trying to shove this unacceptable sour gas processing plant down our throats we will fight you with all of the means at our disposal.
In light of the foregoing it seems clear that Unocal and the ERCB intend to put the hurriedly constructed Unocal sour gas processing plant into operation one way or another -- sooner rather than later. What the Lubicons are going to do about it is less certain but the Lubicons have understandably long since lost confidence in Canadian legal or political institutions to provide them with either protection or with effective redress and they will therefore not likely be simply accepting or operating within the rules established by those who would wipe them off the face of the earth in order to steal their valuable lands and resources. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to see where the pending confrontation between this large, powerful multi-national oil company which has pushed through construction of a $10 million dollar sour gas processing plant in order to make a financial killing, and this small, hard pressed Aboriginal society facing genocide might lead.
People concerned about the plight and the fate of the Lubicons are asked to write and let Unocal, the ERCB and Alberta Power know that people across the country and around the world strongly oppose operation of a huge sour gas processing plant adjacent to the proposed Lubicon reserve, are monitoring this situation and will support Lubicon efforts to keep this plant from being put into operation. The names, mailing address, phone and fax numbers of the people to whom messages should be sent are attached.
People are also asked to keep up the pressure on the Canadian and Albertan governments to negotiate a fair and equitable settlement of Lubicon land rights so that the Lubicon people will have a land base recognized under Canadian law where they can try to rebuild their damaged society and seek the same protection of their legitimate rights as sought by other peoples. The names, address, phone and fax numbers of Alberta Premier Ralph Klein and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien are therefore also attached.
Related Names, addresses, phone and fax numbers are as follows:
Mr. Fritz H. Perschon, Jr., President & General Manager
Unocal Canada Management Limited
150 - 6th Avenue S.W.
Calgary, Alberta T2P 2K6
Home address of Fritz H. Perschon
6003 - 84th Street N.W.
Calgary, AB T3B 4X4
Mr. Roger C. Beach, President and Chief Operating Director
1201 West Fifth Street
P.O. Box 7600
Los Angeles, California, USA 90017
Mr. Craighton Twa, President
Alberta Power Limited
10035 - 105 Street
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 2V6
Energy Resources Conservation Boad
640 Fifth Avenue S.W.
Calgary, Alberta T2P 3G4
Premier Ralph Klein
Government of Alberta
Room 307, Legislature Buildings
10800 - 97 Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta T5T 2B6
Prime Minister Jean Chretien
Government of Canada
80 Wellington Street, 2nd Floor
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6