First Nation demands resignation of Alberta Energy Regulator chair, ex-Big Oil exec Gerry Protti

I Stand With ACFNBy: Obert Madondo | The Canadian Progressive

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) is demanding the resignation of Gerry Protti, the newly-appointed chair of Alberta Energy Regulator, a new agency charged with monitoring environmental issues. The ACFN is concerned that, under Protti’s leadership, the agency will prioritize advancing the interests of the oil, gas and coal industries, while compromising environmental protection and First Nations issues.

“How can Gerry Protti be diligent to First Nations concerns and uphold treaty rights when he clearly has no previous experience engaging First Nations and still has such strong industry ties?” said the ACFN in a press release.

Protti, appointed in April, has deep connections with the oil and related industries. He’s the founding president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), a Calgary-based lobby group that promotes Canada’s Big Oil. Protti’s official bio, posted on the Alberta Energy website, mentions CAPP, but makes no mention of the various oil and energy companies he’s worked for, including Encana Corporation, PanCanadian Energy, PanCanadian Petroleum and Cenovus.

Progressives, local farmers and opposition politicians in Alberta aren’t impressed with Protti either.

“I am concerned that the government has dropped the ball on the environment,” said Liberal Leader Raj Sherman. The Alberta Energy Regulator is expected to investigate oil spills and pipeline infractions, and apply appropriate penalties.

“How can anyone have faith they’ll get a fair shake when the new chair couldn’t be more of oil industry insider?” asked Don Best of the Alberta Surface Rights Group and the United Landowners of Alberta.

New Democrat MLA and Environment Critic Rachel Notley called the appointment “shocking evidence of the new regulator’s pro-industry mandate.”

“I am appalled by this inside job appointment,” she said. “The Redford government isn’t doing itself any favours with this embarrassing post—it unravels the entire yarn they’ve been trying to sell the world about their commitment to responsible resource development and environmental protection. Given his employment history, how can we trust Mr. Protti’s independence, objectivity, and judgment?”

When critics first questioned the appointment in April, Alberta’s Energy Minister Ken Hughes said Protti’s “oilpatch experience will be balanced through the appointment of a diverse board of three to five members and a chief executive.”

Here’s the complete press release from the ACFN:

FORT MCMURRAY, AB, May 1, 2013 – The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) is calling for the removal of Gerry Protti as Chair of the Alberta Energy Regulator. ACFN joined by non-governmental organizations, and special interest groups that have serious concerns with conflict of interest regarding Mr. Protti’s appointment.

For many First Nations this appointment is insult to injury especially those that have been pushing on the Alberta government to strengthen their engagement with First Nations in relation to energy and resource development with little success. Mr. Protti has a long industry history as one of the founders of the Canadian Association for Petroleum Producers, was an executive for Encana, and is a lobbyist for the Energy Policy Institute of Canada. We question his ability to chair the Alberta Energy Regulator with transparency and accountability.

“Where is the justice for our communities?” stated Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. “Our community has been raising serious questions about the provinces environmental standards and monitoring.  We have repeatedly demanded more meaningful participation in the development of the provinces new environmental monitoring projects.  Instead of better engagement they appoint the former founder of CAPP as the Chair of the new Alberta Energy Regulator?  This is unacceptable and insulting.”

This appointment comes also with the Alberta government also announcement of it’s Corporate Guidelines for First Nations Consultation Activities, 2013 giving industry the upper hand and failing to meet First Nations expectations. The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation has join in with the many groups that are outraged with this announcement and questioning provincial leaders interests.

“We are calling for the resignation of Gerri Protti as the Chair of the Alberta Energy Regulator. How can Gerri Protti be diligent to First Nations concerns and uphold treaty rights when he clearly has no previous experience engaging First Nations and still has such strong industry ties.” said Eriel Deranger, ACFN Communications. “Clearly the Government of Alberta has sent a strong message to First Nations of whose interests are important in this province by appointing an industry leader and setting the stage with the release of its new corporate guidelines for First Nations Consultation Activities.”

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation has long been a leader in elevating Treaty rights and First Nations concerns regarding development in Alberta.