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Alberta energy regulator sued over denying First Nations right to speak

Pump jacks pump oil near Standard, Alberta on May 12, 2014.

TODD KOROL/The Globe and Mail

Two aboriginal bands are taking Alberta's energy regulator to court for being denied the right to speak at hearings into an oil sands development near their traditional lands.

The Beaver Lake Cree Nation and the Whitefish Lake First Nation were not allowed to address hearings into Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.'s Kirby expansion project.

The bands say the project is to be developed in the same area where they hunt and fish and will contribute to the demise of caribou in the region.

But the Alberta Energy Regulator ruled they wouldn't be directly affected by the development.

The regulator ultimately denied all applications to speak about the 85,000-barrel-a-day project and cancelled the hearings.

Observers have said the regulator's decision is part of a new pattern to severely restrict who is eligible to address regulatory hearings.

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