3rd July 2015

BP reaches $18.7 billion settlement over deadly 2010 spill – by Tery Wade and Kristen Hays (Reuters U.S. – July 2, 2015)

http://www.reuters.com/

HOUSTON – BP Plc will pay up to $18.7 billion in penalties to the U.S. government and five states to resolve nearly all claims from its deadly Gulf of Mexico oil spill five years ago in the largest corporate settlement in U.S. history.

The agreement adds to the $43.8 billion that BP had previously set aside for criminal and civil penalties and cleanup costs. The company said its total pre-tax charge for the spill now stands at $53.8 billion. (link.reuters.com/duz94w)

BP shares jumped more than 5 percent in New York trading as investors said the British company, often mentioned as a potential acquisition target, could now turn the page on one of the darkest chapters in its century-long history.

Under the agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the states, BP will pay at least $12.8 billion for Clean Water Act fines and natural resource damages, plus $4.9 billion to states. The payouts will be staggered over as many as 18 years. The preliminary settlement, subject to all sorts of variables, avoids a substantial amount of further litigation. Read the rest of this entry »

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2nd July 2015

UNESCO to send group to Wood Buffalo National Park, says First Nations delegate – by Jodie Sinnema (Edmonton Journal – July 1, 2015)

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/index.html

Party will look at environment impact of oilsands development

UNESCO has agreed to send a monitoring committee to Wood Buffalo National Park to look at cumulative effects of oil, gas and hydro development on the environment, says a northern Alberta First Nation representative.

During a convention in Bonn, Germany this week, UNESCO — the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — reviewed concerns raised by the Mikisew Cree Nation about the sprawling national park that straddles the Alberta-Northwest Territories border.

The Mikisew Cree had petitioned to have Wood Buffalo — a World Heritage Site since 1983 — deemed “in danger” because of the Site C hydroelectric dam on the Peace River approved by the British Columbia and federal governments, as well as oilsands development and proposed open-pit mining near the northern Alberta park.

“The Mikisew have reported that First Nations have expressed significant concern about (the hydroelectric dam’s) impacts on their hunting, fishing and agricultural areas,” reads a document posted on UNESCO’s website. Read the rest of this entry »

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2nd July 2015

Brace yourselves for more job losses in Alberta’s oil and gas sector, economist says – by David Howell (Edmonton Journal – July 2, 2015)

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/index.html

EDMONTON – A torrent of layoffs in Alberta’s energy sector appears to have slowed as 2015 hits the halfway mark but more job losses may be around the corner, an economist warns.

“I think we are probably over the hump of the majority of layoffs but I don’t think it’s quite over yet,” Todd Hirsch, chief economist at ATB Financial, said this week.

“Over the summer months we will see, I think, a few more probably big announcements and some more layoffs in that oil and gas sector.”

Thousands of Albertans lost their jobs in the first six months of 2015. The cuts were deepest in the energy sector, as oil producers, drilling contractors and service companies reacted to the sharp decline in oil prices that started last fall.

Prices for benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude oil fell from $107 US per barrel in June 2014 to less than $50 in January, and dipped below $50 a second time in March. Workforce reductions — sometimes called “organization rightsizing” — have been widespread. Read the rest of this entry »

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29th June 2015

Uncertainties in Canada’s resource sector – by Janet Guttsman (Canadian Lawyer Magazine – June 29, 2015)

http://www.canadianlawyermag.com/

Existing and future land claims and doubts on environmental rules have added a layer of uncertainty to an already difficult environment in the Canadian mining and resource sector, as companies struggle for development cash in a nervous and unsettled market.

With oil prices sagging, and global capital markets looking askance at mining and resources, lawyers say both the Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia aboriginal land rights case, and the new recommendations and likely regulations after the Mount Polley tailings dam disaster are adding to the gloom.

“These developments, Tsilhqot’in and Mount Polley, have added to the considerations that investors consider when they are looking at investing in Canada,” says Paul Cassidy, a partner in the business law group at McCarthy Tétrault LLP in Vancouver. “Are they using these two factors as the tipping point to make or not make an investment decision? I think that’s too hard to say. The investors we deal with are much too sophisticated to rely on one mine incident or one court decision as a tipping point.”

The 2014 Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia case was the Supreme Court’s first declaration of aboriginal title, a ruling that the band holds title to land in the interior of British Columbia that it has used over generations. Read the rest of this entry »

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24th June 2015

First Nations better off to negotiate than litigate on resource projects, says report – by Claudia Cattaneo (National Post – June 24, 2015)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

A string of legal victories has emboldened Canada’s First Nations to command unprecedented say over resource projects, the latest example being last month’s Lax Kw’alaams refusal of a $1.14-billion benefits package rather than giving consent to the Pacific NorthWest LNG project in northern British Columbia.

But constitutional scholar Dwight Newman argues the legal winning streak may be coming to an end.

Indeed, in a new research report for the Macdonald-Laurier Institute — entitled Is the Sky the Limit? — Newman argues last year’s Tsilhqot’in Supreme Court of Canada decision that granted title to the B.C. community based on evidence of its use of land may mark the legal peak for aboriginal claims.

“Anyone has the right to press the full extent of their legal rights, (but) Canada may have reached a point where aboriginal groups might be setting back their own position by litigating,” writes Newman, a professor of Law and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Rights in Constitutional and International Law at the University of Saskatchewan. “We have already seen cases of what might be described as overreach by First Nations, pushing for rights beyond those they can plausibly attain within the legal system.” Read the rest of this entry »

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22nd June 2015

Executives urge Canada to diversify beyond natural resources – by Richard Blackwell (Globe and Mail – June 22, 2015)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

It is beginning to sink in among the Canadian business elite that the economy is going to have to start weaning itself off oil.

The latest quarterly C-Suite Survey shows that almost two-thirds of Canadian corporate executives – including those in the west – feel Canada’s economic policy relies too much on Alberta and its natural resources. Fewer than one out of five say the economy currently has a good mix of industrial sectors.

As the next decade unfolds, priorities must change, they said. Information technology, renewable energy and services will rise in importance to the Canadian economy over the next 10 years, the executives said, outpacing mining, automotive and oil.

David MacDonald, chief executive officer of Softchoice Corp., a Toronto-based technology services firm, said the need for diversification is becoming a strong theme both in corporate corner offices and in Bay Street financial circles. The spate of recent initial public share offerings outside the energy sector is one sign of this, he said. “You are starting to see that even the equity markets are starting to focus on non-resource-based companies.” Read the rest of this entry »

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19th June 2015

It’s time to look seriously at a new approach to infrastructure – by Jack Mintz and Claude Montemarquette (Globe and Mail – June 19, 2015)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Jack Mintz is director of the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary. Claude Montemarquette is chief executive officer of CIRANO.

Canada has a major opportunity to position itself for sustained growth in the decades ahead. This opportunity is the creation of a new Northern Corridor, a multimodal infrastructure project (road, rail, pipeline, electricity generation and transmission, air and seaport facilities). It would connect Canada from sea to sea to sea and allow tidewater access to international markets for our renewable and non-renewable commodities.

We have been there before. Just as the national railway, the Trans-Canada Highway, the pipeline network and the St. Lawrence Seaway opened up trade and commerce in the 19th and 20th centuries, a Northern Corridor in this century will not only help get product to diverse markets but also further exploration and development in Canada’s north and near north.

The time is right. Into the foreseeable future, we have prospects for economic growth that would benefit from a major investment in infrastructure – up to $100-billion over 10 years. We have a historically low cost of capital. We have minimal materials and labour cost pressures. Read the rest of this entry »

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19th June 2015

Infrastructure corridor to Canada’s north examined in new project – by Ian Marlow (Globe and Mail – June 19, 2015)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

With the aim of spurring northern economic development and ending regulatory gridlock on resource projects, an ambitious research project announced on Thursday will examine the feasibility of constructing a major new infrastructure corridor spanning Canada’s north.

The project is led by the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy and the Montreal-based Center for Interuniversity Research and Analysis of Organizations, and will look at the possibility of erecting a new network of roads, rail and pipelines, as well as investing in port infrastructure and airports.

The scholars and experts enlisted by the group will consult with the federal government and the provinces and write a number of research papers over several years, likely with a budget of around $1-million.

Jack Mintz of the School of Public Policy says Canada’s existing road and rail networks were constructed based on the premise of doing trade with the United States. But he adds that attempts to shift gears and build pipelines or infrastructure aimed at other markets have stuttered and encountered regulatory gridlock because there is no comprehensive national vision for how and where new infrastructure should be built. Read the rest of this entry »

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16th June 2015

Alberta premier Rachel Notley didn’t start the oil shock crisis, but she’s making it worse – by Claudia Cattaneo (National Post – June 16, 2015)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Alberta’s new NDP government made good Monday on campaign promises to raise corporate taxes and reform political donations, but showed no urgency to address the crisis at hand: a provincial economy suffering from low oil prices that is bleeding private sector jobs, investment and confidence.

The risk is that while Premier Rachel Notley did not create the oil shock — that was OPEC’s handy work — she will be blamed for making it worse by pressing ahead with policies hostile to the dominant oil and gas sector that are accelerating its downward spiral.

Indeed, tensions with the oilpatch are already frayed over her promises to review (and likely raise) oil and gas royalties, toughen up climate change regulations and push for more bitumen upgrading in the province, at a time the sector is broke and laying off staff.

In the first speech from the throne since the NDP replaced the long-governing Tories, Notley outlined her immediate priorities for a short session before the summer break: Corporate taxes are going up to 12 per cent from 10 per cent, and taxes are going up for Albertans earning more than $125,000 to restore the province to “a more typical Canadian tax system.” Read the rest of this entry »

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15th June 2015

Provinces the key to resource-revenue sharing with First Nations – by Tom Flanagan (Globe and Mail – June 15, 2015)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Tom Flanagan is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Calgary and chair of the Aboriginal Futures program for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Resource-revenue sharing has emerged as the next Big Idea for First Nations. Like most Big Ideas, it seems simple, but in reality is full of legal difficulties and unintended economic consequences.

Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), said immediately upon being elected to that position, “If our lands and resources are to be developed, it will be done only with our fair share of the royalties, with our ownership of the resources and jobs for our people.” By “our” he meant all the natural resources of Canada, everywhere, not just on reserves or First Nation settlement lands.

This view contradicts the treaties signed in Ontario and the Prairie provinces, which provided for the surrender of all titles to land and natural resources. But according to the AFN, the treaties do not mean what they say. The AFN says aboriginal leaders actually surrendered land only “to the depth of a plow,” for the purposes of agriculture, so today’s First Nations still own all subsurface rights to minerals and oil and gas. Read the rest of this entry »

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15th June 2015

Campaigns to divest from fossil-fuel holdings gain steam – by Tavia Grant (Globe and Mail – June 15, 2015)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

From Canadian campuses universities and churches to American foundations and Norway’s parliament, a debate is raging over whether to divest out of fossil-fuel investments.

Thirty campuses in Canada have divestment campaigns to move out of fossil-fuel holdings. No university has announced plans to divest, and some, such as the University of Calgary, have ruled that option out. But change is afoot: Concordia University is creating a $5-million fossil-free fund, while faculty and students at the University of British Columbia and University of Victoria have voted in favour of divesting.

Several churches have divested. And one Toronto-based foundation this year took its investments out of oil sands and coal and is putting them into renewable energy – including one initiative that converts zoo manure into biogas.

Global efforts are gaining momentum. Last year, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund pulled out of fossil-fuel investments, and so did the World Council of Churches. Last month, Oxford University pledged to avoid investments in coal and oil sands firms. This month, Norway’s parliament voted to shed coal-related investments from its $890-billion sovereign-wealth fund, which is the world’s largest. Read the rest of this entry »

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11th June 2015

Alberta’s oil sands take a hit as scientists, academics call for halt to development – by Shawn McCarthy (Globe and Mail – June 11, 2015)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

OTTAWA — Alberta’s oil sands producers have suffered another hit to their reputation, as a group of prominent scientists and academics called for a moratorium on further development due to environmental concerns.

Decisions on oil sands development “add up to a social and environmental legacy that will last for generations,” Simon Fraser University ecologist Wendy Palen said on a conference call Wednesday. Ms. Palen said the group pulled together scientific research on oil sands development from their various fields and reached a consensus: “We offer a unified voice, calling for a moratorium on new oil sands projects.”

In a statement signed by 110 researchers from across North America, the group says the planned growth in oil sands production is inconsistent with efforts to cut greenhouse-gas emissions and avert the worst impacts of climate change, and also threatens the ecosystem of a vast stretch of the boreal forest.

“No new oil sands or related infrastructure projects should proceed unless consistent with an implemented plan to rapidly reduce carbon pollution, safeguard biodiversity, protect human health and respect [aboriginal] treaty rights,” their statement said. Read the rest of this entry »

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11th June 2015

BHP Billiton’s Andrew Mackenzie defends coal in battle with gas (Australian Financial Review – June 9, 2015)

http://www.afr.com/

The Group of Seven’s ultimately unremarkable commitment to phase out fossil fuels over the next 85 years only partially reveals the dynamics of commercial self-interest and tactical first-world politics that have successfully driven a wedge between big petroleum and diminishing coal.

The idea that gas sits as a transition fossil fuel that will smooth the world’s embrace of a low carbon future has long been part of the seaborne gas industry’s pitch for long-term relevance. But it is a view that now clearly distinguishes the drillers from the miners in the debate over how the world should manage its carbon dioxide problem.

Pretty plainly, folks like Woodside chief executive Peter Coleman are saying that the gas industry has been weak-kneed about differentiating nice clean gas from its dirty cousin in carbon, thermal coal.

Coleman’s pitch to the World Gas Conference in Paris last week was strident, almost convincing and very certainly crowd pleasing. Nuclear-fuelled Paris, you see, sits at the epicentre of the rapidly shifting tectonics of coal.

France is making a rapid exit from the coal cycle. Read the rest of this entry »

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9th June 2015

Tim Hortons oil-sands tempest – by Terence Corcoran (National Post – June 9, 2015)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

The good news for Tim Hortons is that Alberta isn’t a coffee-growing region, in which case the fast-food chain might today be forced to boycott its own products. According to The Sustainable Business Toolkit, coffee is “the world’s second most tradeable commodity after oil.” The question from SBT is: “Have you ever stopped to think what impacts the world’s favourite beverage is having on our planet?”

Advice to Tim Hortons’ senior executives in charge of corporate social responsibility: Don’t try to find the answer to that question. According to SBT, the world’s major coffee-growing regions are also home to some of the most delicate ecosystems on Earth and “the potential for serious damage is great.” In view of the planetary threat from coffee, Tims might have to suddenly send out a tweet to customers saying: “Thank you for your feedback and the product known as coffee is no longer available at Tims.”

But Alberta is an oil region, rather than a coffee nation, and so the coffee-and-doughnuts chain last week was manipulated into announcing that it would stop running oil-related Enbridge commercials on in-store video screens in some of its locations — presumably because the threat of oil to the planet is greater than the threat of coffee. The Enbridge commercials ran in Tim locations from B.C. to Ontario. They promoted good energy use practices to consumers, not the oilsands. Read the rest of this entry »

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8th June 2015

G7 climate stance targets energy sector – by Mike Blanchfield (Canadian Press/Global News – June 8, 2015)

http://globalnews.ca/

SCHLOSS ELMAU, Germany – Canada’s energy sector will have to transform itself to lower greenhouse gas emissions in the long term, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Monday.

He was commenting at the end of the G7 leaders’ summit which called on its members to put their energy sectors on a low-carbon footing by 2050, a move with serious implications for Canada’s greenhouse-gas-emitting oilsands.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel fell short of her goal of pushing her fellow leaders to a broad, iron-clad commitment to a low-carbon economy by 2050. Instead, the G7 agreed to a full-blown no-carbon economy, but not until 2100.

“We commit to doing our part to achieve a low-carbon global economy in the long-term, including developing and deploying innovative technologies striving for a transformation of the energy sectors by 2050 and invite all countries to join us in this endeavour,” the leaders said in their final communique.

“To this end we also commit to develop long-term, national low-carbon strategies.” Read the rest of this entry »

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