Oil sands in DC: the party never stops

The governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan, along with industry, making their pro-oil sands cases for some time on Capitol Hill. The environmentalists have also been beefing up their presence. Now come the First Nations leaders:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A delegation of indigenous leaders from Canada and the U.S. will hold a media briefing in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, September 22. The leaders are in the U.S. capital this week to discuss their concerns over the impacts of tar sands development with high-ranking officials in light of deliberations over the Keystone XL pipeline project.

The indigenous leaders will meet with the State Department, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Department of the Interior, the Canadian Embassy and key Congressional offices. A new briefing note prepared by the Pembina Institute outlining key aboriginal concerns, resolutions and legal actions related to tar sands development will be available at the media briefing.

Media briefing information:

  • Where: NRDC Office, 1200 New York Ave. NW, Suite 400, Washington, D.C. (use entrance at corner of 12th and H St. — this is the AAAS building).
  • When: 11 a.m. ET, Wednesday, Sept. 22
  • Who: First Nations leaders and representatives of the Pembina Institute and Natural Resources Defense Council
  • R.S.V.P.: Please contact one of the facilitators listed below to reserve a place at the briefing, as it will be held in a secure-access building.

The delegation includes:

  • George Poitras, whose community in Fort Chipewyan lies downstream of tar sands operations and has reported high rates of cancer and other illness. Poitras is a former chief of the Mikisew Cree First Nation in Alberta, Canada.
  • François Paulette, a negotiator and consultant for First Nations groups on the impacts of tar sands operations on land and water quality. Paulette is a member of the Smith’s Landing Treaty 8 First Nation in the Northwest Territories, Canada, former chief of the Dene Nation, and a Commissioner with the Assembly of First Nations.
  • Marty Cobenais, an active member of the non-profit Indigenous Environmental Network, through which he has met with Tribal Councils to encourage resolutions opposing the Keystone XL pipeline. Cobenais is a member of the Red Lake Band of the Chippewa (Ojibwe) First Nation in northern Minnesota.

Canada is among the top 10 emitters of greenhouse gases globally, and the tar sands represent the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. Northern communities, far away from actual mining operations, are already experiencing dramatic changes to their traditional territory and ways of life because of climate change in the Arctic and the Boreal region.

The meetings, sponsored by the Pembina Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council, come as the Obama administration is weighing the consequences of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would allow for the import of as much as 900,000 barrels per day of tar sands oil to the U.S. and worsen the impacts of tar sands development on First Nations communities.

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