Technologies used in oil and gas operations and their associated IP rights add value to the business organisations that develop them – if steps are taken to prevent competitors from accessing and using the technology. However, identifying the appropriate IP vehicle to protect the technology is not entirely straightforward.
In Smith v Inco Limited the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned the decision of the trial judge which had awarded C$36 million against Inco for damage resulting from emissions from a nickel refinery in Port Colborne, Ontario. The court concluded that Inco was not liable for the type of harm alleged by the plaintiffs and that, in any event, the class had suffered no harm.
The federal government recently published proposed regulations for coal-fired electricity generation units. This update summarises the proposed regulations, articulates the likely response from interested groups and sets out some opportunities that could emerge as a result of the proposed changes.
The Alberta oilsands hold a tremendous amount of producible oil; however, it is only in the past decade that the convergence of economic and technological factors has allowed for the production and upgrading of bitumen into synthetic oil on a sustainable commercial scale. International attention is now focused not only on the oilsands' great promise, but also on their challenges.
The permits issued by the British Columbia government to a mining company to engage in exploration and sampling projects have been suspended and the government has been ordered to hold a new consultation process. The permits were to allow the company to extract a 50,000 tonne bulk sample of coal and drill 173 test holes in an area subject to Treaty 8. West Moberly First Nations, signatories of Treaty 8, contested the validity of the permits.
Bill 14, which would substantially amend the Mining Act, was recently tabled in the Quebec National Assembly. The new bill includes a proposal to change the name of the Mining Act to the Act Respecting the Development of Mineral Resources in keeping with the principles of sustainable development. It also introduces new rules on mining claims and mining leases, and new protective, rehabilitative and restorative measures.
The Quebec government has released details regarding the substance and implementation of the Plan Nord, described by the government as one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken in Quebec. The government hopes to achieve a number of objectives with the Plan Nord, including making Quebec a world leader in the realm of clean, renewable energy and maximising its mineral resource potential.
The Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) has published for comment proposed changes to its Company Manual to create a new subcategory of minimum listing requirements for oil and gas companies. This new subcategory will facilitate the listing of development-stage oil and gas companies that are unable to establish proved developed reserves, which is a requirement to obtain a TSX listing.
The Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Counsellor opened for business in October 2010. This new government dispute resolution mechanism represents an important and unique development affecting the legal and risk management practices of Canadian mining and oil and gas companies doing business abroad.
The legal and governance framework of the Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Counsellor is taking shape. As a first step in building the mandate of the CSR counsellor, draft rules of procedure for complaints against Canadian mining, oil and gas companies operating abroad have been developed.
The Canadian Securities Administrators recently published for public comment proposed changes to the Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects, as well as the companion policy and the prescribed form for technical reports. The proposals were developed following public consultations with mining industry participants and a general review of the existing rules.
In the 2010-2011 Budget, Quebec Finance Minister Raymond Bachand stated that sustainable development will be an important thrust and a significant feature of the economy for the next 20 years. He went on to announce a series of measures centred around two main themes: (i) building a green economy; and (ii) sustainable and responsible management of the province's resources.
Alberta's energy minister, Ron Liepert, recently announced the much-anticipated royalty rate curves for oil and gas wells, as well as incentive programmes for unconventional resource exploration and the use of high-cost technologies. These benefits should allow operators to recover more easily their capital costs and help to mitigate the financial risk associated with investment in high-cost wells and new technologies.
In October 2007 Alberta's progressive Conservative government announced the Alberta Royalty Framework, revising royalty rates for both conventional and non-conventional oil and gas resources. Following a competitiveness review in early 2009 to determine whether the framework was still suitable, given lower energy prices and a credit-starved industry, the government slashed the maximum royalty rates on oil and natural gas.
Participants in Canadian industry, as well as both federal and provincial levels of government, have been watching the energy and climate change developments in the United States with great interest. A draft bill under consideration by Congress is likely to have a major impact on Canadian industry, particularly on the energy sector.
The much-anticipated and heavily promoted Green Energy Act bill was recently introduced to the Ontario legislature. The bill aims to establish an attractive investment climate for green power developers, provide certainty for the market and make Ontario a leader in renewable energy and energy conservation in North America.
The British Columbia Court of Appeal recently issued two decisions requiring the British Columbia Utilities Commission, when making its decisions, to assess the adequacy of state consultation with first nations. These decisions mark a significant shift in the regulatory regime applicable to many businesses operating in this arena.
New rules have come into effect in Ontario which are expected to expedite the connection of small electricity generation facilities (eg, biomass, biofuel or fuel cells) to Ontario's distribution system. The new rules apply to all 'queue-exempt small generation facilities' which meet the criteria set out in the rules, regardless of the technology used to generate the electricity.
In 2007 the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board initiated an inquiry into the natural gas liquids extraction business in Alberta. The proceedings were extensive, spanning 2007 and 2008. The main focus of the inquiry was whether the existing convention for the extraction of natural gas liquids is equitable and in the best interests of the industry and the province.
The Energy Resources Conservation Board recently issued its decision in an application by Hunt Oil Company of Canada Inc, pursuant to Section 39(1)(a) of the Oil and Gas Conservation Act, to amend its enhanced recovery scheme by adding two water injection wells to the Kleskun Beaverhill Lake A Pool.