Current Problems


‘They’re ramming it down our throats,’ Cold Lake First Nation Chief says of Pathways carbon capture project

September 13, 2023

Network to transport carbon from oil sands facilities and store it underground

A man with glasses, a blue blazer and white shirt stands outside a conference room at the Edmonton Convention Centre.
Kelsey Jacko, Chief of Cold Lake First Nation, said his community is “cautious” about the prospect of carbon capture and storage and potential risks the technology poses. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

CBC Indigenous: The Chief of the Cold Lake First Nation said his community has concerns about a proposed carbon capture and storage network that’s the centrepiece of a plan by major oilsands producers to hit net zero by 2050. 

The plan by the Pathways Alliance, a consortium of Canada’s largest oilsands producers, is to build a 400-kilometre pipeline that would transport carbon from more than 20 oilsands facilities to an underground hub near Cold Lake for safe underground storage. Pathways calls it a “foundational project” that’s at the heart of their initiative to remove emissions from oilsands operations. 

“It just seems like they’re ramming it down our throat,” said Chief Kelsey Jacko, who spoke to CBC News on the sidelines of the Carbon Capture Canada convention in Edmonton. 

While Pathways has not yet fully committed to going ahead with the project, oilsands executives have said they plan to apply for regulatory approval for the carbon pipeline as early as this fall. The Alberta government has already approved for further evaluation Pathways’ application for geological storage space allocation in that area, though final approval has yet to be granted.

Jacko said his community has been burned by resource extraction projects before, which have left the region with tailings pond issues and a diminished caribou population. He believes the carbon capture and storage project will be more of the same.

In particular, Jacko said he’s concerned about the long-term consequences of injecting CO2 into the pore space and the possibility of leakage. The proposed network would run through around 100 kilometres of their traditional territory, he said, while the proposed storage hub would be close to their reserve land. 

“It’s frustrating because that’s a 400-kilometre line, and [leakage] could happen [along] the pipeline or it could happen right at the storage [area],” said Jacko.

Jacinta Janvier, a council member with Cold Lake First Nations, echoed that point.  “I want my children and my grandchildren and their children to have a beautiful place to live, a safe place to live,” she said. “I think people need to really think about what can happen and the consequences.”

Safe storage a ‘primary consideration’
A truck in the oilsands
(Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

In response to their concerns, Pathways President Kendall Dilling said it’s understandable the community would be apprehensive about a new industrial development near where they live. 

Dilling said Pathways has been consulting with First Nations communities — both the Cold Lake First Nation and 24 others that are situated along the proposed network — for the last two years, but that engineering details weren’t available to share until more recently.  “We’re now at a point I think [where] we’re starting to really meaningfully satisfy those technical engagements they’re looking for, but it’s taken a little while to get there,” Dilling said. 

Dilling said ensuring the safe storage of carbon emissions underground will be the “primary technical consideration” during the regulatory process that will unfold approximately over the next year-and-a-half. He said Pathways is confident in the technology and its safety, and will host a technical forum this fall to provide communities with more in-depth information. 

Economic considerations

Beyond the environmental implications of the project, Jacko also wants assurance about how revenue from the project will be shared. 

He said his First Nation is in a housing crisis and needs a detox centre and other infrastructure. Jacko added that while his community has participated economically in previous resource projects, it hasn’t benefited to the same extent as private companies and different levels of government have.

“Equity participation from our lands is a pre-requisite for successful, inclusive development of carbon capture and storage as a solution to the oil sands sector’s ability to meet their climate commitments,” said Jacko, speaking during a conference panel discussion Tuesday. 

Dilling said Pathways “fully intends” to have communities be economic participants, and that sharing an ownership stake is an option on the table.  “We are certainly open to it and if it can make sense for the communities and they’re supportive, then that absolutely could be an outcome,” said Dilling. He added that there’s “nothing more important” to Pathways than consulting with First Nations on the project.

According to the Canada Energy Regulator, Alberta currently has carbon storage capacity of about three million tonnes of CO2 per year. 

Pathways’ proposal and six other projects currently under evaluation have the potential to ramp that number up to 56 million tonnes per year by 2030. 


Paula Duhatschek, Reporter/Editor

Paula Duhatschek is a reporter with CBC Calgary who previously worked for CBC News in Kitchener and in London, Ont. You can reach her at 

With files from the Canadian Press