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Natives demand say in energy megaprojects

Owen Sound Sun Times: JIM ALGIE - January 19, 2008

Legal action by the Saugeen Ojibwa could derail or delay major energy projects in Bruce County, Saugeen lawyer Arthur Pape warned an Ontario Energy Board hearing this week.

Before anyone starts building new power lines to the Bruce nuclear power development site, Saugeen representatives want the province to have separate talks with affected First Nations governments, Pape said.

Detailed reviews have begun for both the Ontario Power Authority's integrated power system plan and a Hydro One proposal for an expanded transmission corridor between Milton and Bruce Nuclear.

Pape appeared earlier this week before an Ontario Energy Board panel in Toronto preparing for public hearings on the integrated power system plan.

The power authority's integrated power system plan, in a 7,000-page submission to the board, calls for $60 billion in new generation and transmission projects to provide for Ontario energy requirements over the next 20 years. It includes new wind and nuclear developments as well as an Ontario Power Generation proposal to bury low- and medium-level radioactive waste at Bruce.

Without adequate consultation, Pape said his clients could well pursue court action to disallow results of the power system plan review. Such legal action "might very well result in the plan being neither economically prudent nor cost-effective," he told the board.

Proposed nuclear and wind power developments raise "environmental risks" crucial to First Nations people, Pape argued. He also made pointed reference to the federal government's intervention in overturning Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission conditions for restarting a crucial nuclear reactor at Chalk River.

That federal action "undermined the credibility and the stability" of public safety protections, Pape said.

Without adequate consultation, Pape said his clients could well pursue court action to disallow results of the power system plan review. Such legal action "might very well result in the plan being neither economically prudent nor cost-effective," he told the board.

Proposed nuclear and wind power developments raise "environmental risks" crucial to First Nations people, Pape argued. He also made pointed reference to the federal government's intervention in overturning Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission conditions for restarting a crucial nuclear reactor at Chalk River.

That federal action "undermined the credibility and the stability" of public safety protections, Pape said.

"How could a party like the Saugeen Ojibwa, whose territory would be profoundly affected by a failure of safety regulation, how could they not be enormously concerned by these developments?" he asked. "How could they not insist that there be effective accommodation measures developed addressing this very deep concern?"

Bruce Power chief executive officer Duncan Hawthorne said in an interview he understands some of the First Nations' frustration. The sheer number and size of proposed developments make them hard to assess individually.

"You have to recognize that there's a large number of proponents all doing projects in the area, so I think the issue is more a discussion about the cumulative effects," he said. "The problem I think they have is that individual proponents are speaking to them about their piece, but nowhere does someone talk about the collective impact of all the projects."

Enbridge Power LP and the Saugeen Ojibwa announced in November a consultation agreement for one of Canada's largest wind energy developments now under construction in southern Bruce County. No such agreement exists for other multimillion dollar energy-related developments in the county, which is part of the Saugeens' traditional territory.

Saugeen First Nations Chief Randall Kahgee has predicted the right of First Nations to consultation and accommodation may delay or halt planning for major new developments in Bruce County. Before his election last year as chief, Kahgee, a lawyer, worked with Pape's law firm on a pair of Supreme Court of Canada cases which have imposed on the Crown a duty to consult with First Nations on developments in their traditional territories.

Pape said Friday he expects energy board officials to look into the adequacy of First Nations involvement in the integrated system plan.

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