The Woodland Cree First Nation (WCFN) indigenous group in northern Alberta, Canada, has given a notice of opposition to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), criticising oil and gas company Obsidian Energy and its CEO for refusing to address environmental concerns from local indigenous communities about the company’s drilling operations.

The complaint relates to a ruling from the AER in March last year that found Obsidian’s disposal of wastewater underground caused a series of earthquakes across the region in late 2022 and early 2023. Simultaneously, Stanford University published a research paper that also found that the injection of wastewater deep underground by oil and gas companies likely caused recent earthquakes in the region, one of which was one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded in Canada’s Peace River area.

Woodland Cree Chief Isaac Laboucan-Avirom said in a statement on Wednesday: “The AER ruled that Obsidian’s practices caused the earthquakes and placed them under supervision. But nearly a year later, Obsidian has refused to meaningfully meet or work with Woodland Cree First Nation to address our concerns. This calls into question the company and underlines the need for their executives to come to the table and address the concerns of rights holders in the region.”

He added that the AER’s regulatory action, which was appealed by Obsidian last year, “does not remove the legal requirement for Obsidian to consult with and work with the Indigenous communities in who’s territories they operate”.

Obsidian CEO Stephen Loukas said in a statement about the complaint that the company has “unfortunately reached a negotiating impasse with WCFN’s senior leadership”.

“Obsidian Energy has informed WCFN’s senior leadership that we cannot accept their unrealistic terms… In addition to limiting our ability to operate independently in the area, their proposal is not beneficial to our stakeholders, local communities and other Indigenous groups,” he said. The statement added that the company “encourages” the WCFN leadership to negotiate a “mutually beneficial economic relationship agreement”.

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Calgary-based Obsidian produces approximately 31,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. Around 20% of its total output comes from the company’s Peace River assets in northern Alberta, some of which are located within Woodland Cree territory. The company also plans to increase production by 12% this year, with most of its drilling programme expected to be concentrated in the Peace River area.