US-incorporated energy firm Lone Pine Resources is challenging Quebec’s moratorium on fracking under terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and demanding more than $250 million in compensation. The company—headquartered in Calgary but incorporated in Delaware—officially notified the US Securities and Exchange Commission that on Nov. 8 it filed a notice of intent to sue the Canadian government under NAFTA's controversial Chapter 11. Quebec lawmakers in June approved legislation, Bill l8, that imposed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing pending further study on its environmental impacts. Lone Pine cites Chapter 11's Article 117, on investor damages, in its claim for the loss of what it calls a "valuable right...without due process, without compensation and with no cognizable public purpose."
Provincial police have been mobilized to a spot on Highway 138 in northern Quebec where local Innu erected roadblocks outside the town of Sept-Îles over the weekend. Dissident Uashat-Maliotenam band members who say they've been shut out of the province's resource-development plan used trees, traffic cones and debris to block the highway, only allowing emergency vehicles to pass. The Uashat-Maliotenam band council distanced itself from the demonstrators, saying "in the immediate future, the band prefers mediation to resolve this crisis." Protesters say they have been systematically excluded from talks related to Quebec's Plan Nord, a mega-scheme to exploit natural resources in the region. Quebec wants to exploit mining, forest and energy resources in a 1.2-million-square-kilometer zone—an area more than twice the size of France. By the end of 2010, a total of 24 of the 33 First Nation communities in the impacted territory had signed agreements with the provincial government. (Sun News, Canada, Oct. 16)
Canadian citizen Omar Khadr was transferred to Canada from Guantánamo Bay early Sept. 30 to serve out the rest of his prison sentence under the authority of the Correctional Service of Canada. Khadr pleaded guilty to murdering US Sergeant First Class Christoper Speer, an Army medic, as well as charges of conspiracy and spying, material support of a terrorist group and attempted murder. He was originally sentenced to eight years in 2010 on top of the eight years he had already spent in prison. The rest of his sentence and future parole hearings, however, will now be handled by Canadian authorities according to Canadian law.
We noted earlier this year that the Canadian government is holding out the threat of selling the Alberta tar sands oil to China through the Northern Gateway pipeline that Enbridge Inc hopes to build to the British Columbia coast as a stratagem to pressure the US for rapid approval of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, which would export that same oil to stateside refineries as far south as Texas. In January, President Barack Obama denied a permit (for the time being) to the main trunk that would bring the oil down from Canada (to Republican outrage). But in March, he announced he would approve construction of the southern leg, from Cushing, Okla., to the Texas coast—a move blasted by enviros as a betrayal and (natch) by Republicans as inadequate. (LAT, March 22; see map from the Washington Post) The southern leg is, of course, contingent on the northern leg, thus establishing greater pressure for it. Now, as work commences on the southern leg, it emerges that Enbridge, in addition to fighting Canada's own enviros to win approval of the Northern Gateway, is quietly but rapidly expanding its own pipeline network south of the 49th parallel. Is this bet-hedging—keeping access to US markets in case Canada's greens prevail over the Northern Gateway? Or are Enbridge and TransCanada throwing each other a wink—divvying up the US market between them while cultivating the "China card" to lubricate access to that market? We recall the famous admonition of Calouste Gulbenkian, the Armenian oilman who brokered the post-World War I carve-up of the Middle East among US and European companies: "Oilmen are like cats; you can never tell from the sound of them whether they are fighting or making love." Exhibit A, from the LA Times, Aug. 16: