SOUTHERN ALBERTA: A group battling an oil and gas deal on the Blood reserve is gearing up for a potential legal fight. Three women arrested at an unarmed blockade over the weekend have their first court appearance Monday.
"There are healthier ways to make money," Lois Frank, one of the Blood community members who was arrested, tells Country 95 News. "There's green energy, there's organics, growing crops. We should be rolling up our sleeves and farming our own lands. We should be working - not dependent for funding on outside sources."
Blood Tribe members first heard about the oil and gas deal about a year ago. But many say there was no consultation with tribal members about the possible environmental or health impacts of leasing roughly half the reserve land to two outside oil and gas companies for drilling.
The community also raised concerns about the type of drilling that will be used. Called "hydraulic fracturing" or "fracking," the process mixes sand and chemicals with large quantities of water which are blasted underground. The impact fractures rocks layers, releasing natural gas pockets that are otherwise inaccessible.
Fracking has also been known to contaminate ground water and drinking wells near the drill sites. Environmental and health concerns have prompted various governments to ban fracking - if only temporarily - until the impacts have been fully studied. Both the states of New Jersey and New York, for example, have put moratoriums on any new fracking leases until the results of a study from environmental regulators are released. Some regions in Canada have recently followed suit, but not Alberta.
"As far as I'm concerned this is totally unhealthy, it's dangerous - I mean enough already," says Frank of the tribe and council's decision to go through with the deal. Bowood Energy Inc. and Murphy Oil Corporation now have a five-year lease, which came with a $50 million signing bonus for the tribe when it was finalized by the end of 2010. Members of the community claim they have yet to see any of those funds released to reserve residents. Country 95 News contacted tribe and council for comment this week, but their calls weren't returned.
Frank says she wants to see the community take agency of their own resources, but calls the deal a "short term solution" that could cause problems in the future. "It's not about money. At some point, Blood Tribe people, human beings - we all need to make a living. But to sell us out and to do this to our lands. We're going to pay for it in the long term."