On Friday, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, the Hon. Seamus O’Regan, announced up to $12 million in funding over the next two years for the Indigenous Natural Resource Partnerships (INRP) program for Indigenous communities and organizations in the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. The program aims to further increase Indigenous people’s participation in economic opportunities related to Canadian oil and gas infrastructure development.

According to a statement from O’Regan, the INRP partnerships will “help Indigenous communities in Canada “respond to opportunities and create economic benefits.”

INRP monies can be awarded to energy infrastructure projects in the provinces of British Columbia and/or Alberta that enhance the ability of indigenous communities to capitalize on business opportunities, facilitate access to information, tools and resources that support business, employment and training opportunities, and support community and regional engagement regarding economic participation in energy infrastructure projects.

This is a second funding commitment for INRP, building on the success of the 2019-2020 Indigenous Natural Resource Partnerships Program.

The initial program awarded funds to 35 groups, with project sizes ranging from $15,000 to $1.35 million, including business plan development, feasibility studies, job-directed training opportunities, forums on regional interests, and other resources that enhanced Indigenous participation in oil and gas infrastructure development.

The program is run in cooperation with Canada’s First Nations Major Projects Coalition (MPC), a non-political, business-focused division of the First Nations Financial Management Board (FMB), which assists the FMB in finding financing options for major projects and equipping them to make informed business decisions about possible projects affecting their traditional lands.

FNMPC received the largest funding grant under the first program, with $1,350,000 awarded for First Nations-Led Innovation in Advancing Major Project Development in British Columbia and Alberta.

“This funding enables FNMPC to continue our core service delivery to our member First Nations so they have access to the capacity tools and options upon which informed business decisions can be made regarding their participation in major projects,” said Chief Sharleen Gale, Chair of the First Nations Major Projects Coalition.

Other INRP awards were awarded to individual projects. Alberta’s Pimee Well Servicing was granted $350,000 for its Rig 11 Freestanding Double Rig Modernization Project. This project supported an Indigenous company, wholly owned by six Alberta First Nations, to expand their customer base and diversify their services by taking on a modernization project and retrofitting an oil rig.

Chu Cho Environmental, an environmental consulting company owned by the Tsai Keh Dene (TKD) Nation of British Columbia and tasked with providing long-term employment and capacity building opportunities for TKD band members, also received funding through INRP.

Chu Cho Environmental CEO Michael Tilson said INRP funding gave Chu Cho the opportunity to build what he termed “a strategic digital roadmap” for its organizations.

Re-funding INRP is the latest incarnation of Canadian Government-steered initiatives designed to support labor-intensive infrastructure development in the Canadian oil and natural gas industry that is inclusive of the interests of Indigenous people.

As of 2020, Canada is the world’s fourth largest producer of oil, and ranks third for oil reserves, with oil and natural contributing C$133.3 billion to Canadian GDP. While the industry is active in 12 of Canada’s 13 provinces, the majority of industry jobs are concentrated in the province of Alberta, home to the Canadian oil sands, the largest deposit of crude oil on the planet.

CRIN

Last month, the Canadian Government’s Innovation, Science and Economic Development department announced an investment of C$100 million over the next four years, through its Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF), to support growth in the Canadian oil and gas industry through clean technology innovation.

This funds will help Canada’s Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN) to develop and adopt innovative technologies and processes that lower the Canadian oil and gas industry’s environmental impacts, support economic growth and create “good, well-paying jobs with cleaner energy from source to end use.”

CRIN—whose membership numbers more than 1,350 universities, research institutions, government entities and private companies all committed to clean hydrocarbon energy production—aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Canadian oil and gas sector by 100 megatons by 2033, or the equivalent of taking 1.5 million cars off the road.

Canada’s Indian Resource Council, which lobbies for federal policy changes in Canada to improve energy-related economic opportunities for First Nations, is part of the steering committee for CRIN. In a statement on last month’s clean tech funding round, the council’s President and CEO, Stephen Buffalo, commented on the Canadian energy industry’s relations with First Nation communities.

“The IRC has been an integral part of the industry, advocating for responsible First Nations energy development since 1987,” he said. “The IRC has witnessed first-hand that CRIN has a successful model for bringing together leaders from specialized backgrounds; these include the executive leadership of large international companies, the technicians of small mom-and-pop shops and all those in between. CRIN has stepped up to answer the calls for action for technological advancements in our energy industry to meet the energy demands of the future.

“Canada is a leader in regulations and technology, and we should be proud of our partnerships with First Nation communities, including those at the table like our First Nations members that make up the Indian Resource Council. We continue this work in partnership with innovative organizations like CRIN and look forward to our continued relationship in answering those increasing demands for energy in a responsible manner,” he said.

The U.S. comparable

In the United States, the Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development, under the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, runs an Energy and Mineral Development Program (EMDP) Grant, which provides financial assistance to tribes seeking to evaluate the energy and mineral resource potential of their lands.

Funds are available to all federally recognized American Indian/Alaska Native tribes, bands, villages, nations or communities, as well as any Tribal Energy Development Organization (TEDO), and can be applied to resources ranging from oil and gas, to industrial, base ferrous and precious minerals, geothermal, biomass, hydroelectricity, solar, wind and other energy forms. In 2019, EMDP projects received over $5.3 million in funding, while this year, the agency plans to award 25-30 grants to projects for one year at a time, ranging in value from a minimum ask of $10,000 to a maximum ask of $2,500,000)

Applicants have until December 2, 2020 to apply under this year’s funding mandate.

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