Lubicon Lake Indian Nation
3536 - 106 Street
Edmonton, Alberta T6J 1A4
October 04, 1994
Chief Ominayak's September 27th letter to Unocal Canada President Fritz Perschon was faxed to Mr. Perschon on September 29th. Lubicon advisor Fred Lennarson received a telephone call from C.G. (Gordon) Dunn of the ERCB at 5:20 that same afternoon -- notably later than normal working hours for the ERCB.
As is clear from the September 28th mail-out communications with Unocal and the ERCB typically come in matched pairs. Almost inevitably any exchange with either one of them is followed shortly thereafter by a communication from the other -- usually on the same subject and pressing the same point.
Despite earlier assurances by confident Unocal representatives that Lubicon opposition could simply be bought off, Chief Ominayak's September 27th letter effectively ended the arrogant notion that the Lubicons can somehow be talked into voluntarily acceding to the existence of a huge new sour gas processing plant adjacent to the proposed Lubicon reserve. Lubicon refusal to go along in turn presents a potentially serious legal problem for the ERCB.
ERCB enabling legislation requires that the ERCB hold a public hearing prior to approval when a proposed energy project is opposed by people who may be directly and adversely affected by it. In this case a huge new $10 million dollar sour gas processing plant was not only approved without benefit of a public hearing, it was approved based on perhaps deliberately false information, the circumstances of the approval are at the very least curious and the plant itself has actually been hurriedly constructed presumably in an effort to try and insure that a questionable approval cannot be reversed.
Mr. Dunn told Fred Lennarson "The (ERCB) Board is prepared to review the Unocal application and would like to talk about timing". He then proposed the end of October or first part of November -- a shorter than normal time frame also presumably on purpose. After some discussion with Lubicon representatives a hearing was set for November 8th in Edmonton. (Place and time have not yet been established but will be communicated as soon as they are available.)
ERCB hearings are almost always sleepy little affairs held without fanfare in a small community somewhere near a proposed energy project site after which the ERCB then quietly approves the proposed project -- often without any reference or apparent relation to the earnest submissions of the involved intervenors. The purpose of such events is clearly not to facilitate a full and public vetting of a proposed energy project but to create the illusion that the legal and environmental niceties of a modern western democracy are being observed without at the same time seriously impeding large-scale exploitation of natural resources by multi-national companies.
A full and public examination of the Unocal sour gas processing plant in all of its aspects is of course exactly what the Lubicons have in mind for the November 8th ERCB hearing. In fact the Lubicons propose to use the hearing as an opportunity for everyone who has concerns about the Unocal sour gas processing plant from any point of view -- including the presentation of different kinds of legal evidence, medical evidence, biological evidence, veterinary evidence, environmental evidence, experimental evidence, experiential evidence, historical evidence, anthropological evidence, economic evidence and political evidence.
There's little doubt that the Lubicon intention to broaden the nature and scope of a typical ERCB hearing will be vigorously opposed by both Unocal and the ERCB. One of the ways that the ERCB is expected to try and circumscribe the evidence presented at the ERCB hearing is to accord intervenor status only to the Lubicons as the people living next to the plant -- not, for example, to a Calgary-based organization concerned about abuse of human or aboriginal rights. Should the ERCB attempt to so circumscribe the evidence presented at the hearing the Lubicons intend to include all relevant evidence on the Unocal sour gas processing plant as components of an overall Lubicon intervention.
The ERCB is expected to require that all admissible components of a Lubicon intervention be submitted in writing prior to the hearing -- something not likely possible at least in all cases given the shortness of the time and the type and variety of evidence being contemplated by the Lubicons. If the ERCB is unwilling to allow relevant evidence to be presented verbally as elements of an overall Lubicon intervention the Lubicons intend to legally challenge the Unocal approval as well as ERCB interpretation of the requirements of its enabling legislation plus proceed with a public presentation of the evidence under other auspices -- calling upon the ERCB to appear and explain the unusual circumstances of the approval and subsequent ERCB handling of the affair.
As envisioned by the Lubicons presentation of evidence relevant to the Unocal sour gas processing plant will be a significant undertaking especially in light of the short time involved. But it should be possible with a little help from people concerned about the involved issues and it represents a far better alternative than the prospects should a new sour gas processing plant which the Lubicons see as posing a deadly threat to their children be put into operation adjacent to the proposed Lubicon reserve.
People are asked to make any recommendations they might have regarding people and/or organizations with relevant evidence to present. Recommendations should be forwarded to the Lubicon office in Edmonton as soon as possible. The target for having fully defined the components and presenters of an overall Lubicon intervention is the last week of October.