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Delay means fracking protest can continue

LITTLE BUFFALO, Alta. - A anti-fracking blockade of an energy company's drilling site in northern Alberta will continue over the weekend after the protesters say a judge delayed hearing an application to get them to move.

A news release from the Lubicon Lake Nation says a Calgary judge who was to hear the request by PennWest Exploration (TSX:PWT) has postponed the hearing until Monday.

The protesters have been blocking an access road to PennWest's drilling site by Haig Lake since late November.

The group says the protest is peaceful and is intended to stop the company from fracking on traditional Lubicon territory.

The blockade is not supported by the Lubicon Lake Band, a separate group that has elected its own chief and council and is recognized by the federal government.

The group has warned that other energy companies on Lubicon land could face similar blockades.

"This was an unexpected victory," Lubicon Lake Nation Chief Bernard Ominayak said in the news release about the delay of the hearing.

PennWest spokesman Greg Moffatt said he wasn't aware of the specific reason for the delay. He noted that he believed the judge has said the group cannot move the blockade or expand it until the application is heard.

The band and the federal and provincial governments have been trying to work out a land claim deal since the 1980s. The province continued to issue energy leases in the area, including around Haig Lake.

PennWest and Ominayak's group had been engaged in discussions until last February's election of Billy Joe Laboucan as chief of the federally recognized Lubicon band.

Moffatt has said the company is legally obliged to deal with the recognized leadership.

He said the company had hoped the Alberta government would enforce access to the site, and that it sought the injunction because the province wasn't moving quickly enough.

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