Judicial terrorism

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Judicial Terrorism

Failing to win the battle to persuade the public to approve hydraulic fracturing, the gas companies have launched a number of lawsuits arguing that they are treated unfairly. For example :‘… Gaspé Energy is before the courts to demand a permit to drill in Gaspé’s Galt 6 well, which had been refused by the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Jonatan Julien…‘ (1) The ‘Centre Québécois du Droit de l’Environnement’ denounces the alarming tendency of gas companies that make an abusive use of the courts to promote their interest at the expense of the health and well-being of the citizens.(2)

With the lack of social acceptability and the very controversial law106 adopted in 2016, the oil companies are trying to play the victim by appealing to the courts. This parody of justice calls to mind the second definition of the verb‘ to prostitute’ : ‘ to debase through self-interest (avilir par intérêt)’. Furthermore, this lawsuit is implicit blackmail, twisting the arm of the minister to oblige him to ‘negotiate’ the granting of a permit authorizing this well.

Similarly, Pieridae Energy is suing the government of Québec for $32 million to demand compensation for the ‘disguised expropriation’ of the Haldimand site in the Gaspé area; ‘….this expropriation arises from the regulations of the application of the law on hydrocarbons….’ (3) Does a government have the right to to protect its population, especially in an inhabited zone?

Not lacking nerve, Pieridae tried to obtain a subsidy of nearly a billion dollars from Ottawa to start its Goldboro project in Nova Scotia; so far, this demand for federal funds has been unsuccessful before the June 30 deadline (4) Just like the liquified natural gas project on the banks of the Saguenay river(GNL Québec), the Goldboro project intends to export liquified natural gas to Europe. However, according to report #358 of the BAPE, the justification for a natural gas liquefaction facility in Québec as a transition energy is very debatable; the same reservations should apply to Goldboro’s plans for natural gas export.

As one might expect, the oil companies have made multiple attempts to silence the opposition or to blackmail the government to accept ‘ petroleum friendly legislation’. Could we call this ‘judicial terrorism’? We might recall that Gastem sued the tiny municipality of Ristigouche for $1.5 million because the municipal council refused to allow Gastem to compromise the quality of its citizens’ water supply. The judge rejected the indecent allegations of Gastem.

In order to restart drilling in Québec, Questerre Energy Corporation launched a lawsuit in October, 2018 in order to force the government of Québec to invalidate the regulations which forbids fracking in the St Lawrence lowlands. In March 2019, Questerre temporarily suspended its suit. The chairman of Questerre, Mr Michael Binnion was a former President of the Quebec’s Oil and Gas Association (QOGA) later known as The Energy Association of Quebec. Since Questerre was the cutting edge of this drive, could this halt in the proceedings allow back-room negotiations for the purpose of invalidating the laws and regulations against hydraulic fracking?

Furthermore, the petrochemical industry is preparing to sue the federal government because it wishes to curb plastic pollution. According to the allegations of the industry, Ottawa’s stance would not be founded on science. (5)

The mechanism to resolve disputes between investors and states (investor-state dispute settlement, ISDS) of NAFTA also falls under the heading of large scale judicial blackmail. Lone Pine Resources is suing Quebec (through the intermediary of the federal government) for the sum of $250 million because law 18 of the Charest government forbade drilling in the bed of the St Lawrence. We are waiting for the verdict! (6) . Also, TransCanada Pipelines has sued the American government for $15 billion because President Obama refused Keystone XL. Obviously, the company abandoned its suit when President Trump authorized the pipeline. It remains to be seen if TC Energy will submit another lawsuit after the ratification of the decree signed by President Biden on January 20, 2021!

In contrast, individuals who do not have the financial resources and the political connections of the oil industry have difficulties. Let’s consider Jessica Ernst, a resident of Alberta. When the water in her well was contaminated, she sued Encana. The issues were such that some aspects of the lawsuit had to be resolved by the Supreme Court of Canada. After 20 years of litigations and legal costs approaching $400,000, she was forced to give up. (7)

The courts are legally and ethically obliged to arbitrate conflicts in order to render JUSTICE on the basis of legitimate laws. The allegory of blind Themis’ scales is the symbol of justice (8)

In this balance, the overwhelming weight of the wealth of the oil industry is beginning to fade. After all , the very powerful International Energy Agency demands immediate action on climate, including …’ the end of all investments in coal mines and gas and oil wells….’ (9) and (10)

Gérard Montpetit

1] https://www.lesoleil.com/actualite/exploration-petroliere-vers-un-feu-vert-a-des-forages-en-gaspesie-bb177254506c21bb0222fd18e3b04593

2] https://www.cqde.org/fr/nouvelles/communique-la-gaziere-pieridae-energy-inc-tente-daffaiblir-le-cadre-reglementaire-en-vigueur-le-cqde-denonce-une-tendance-inquietante/

3] https://drive.google.com/file/d/1k2OmMVyX78Xw-Ve-H1jPlVOhfUz5NelR/view

(Demande introductive d’instance)

4] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/pieridae-goldboro-lng-negotiating-with-ottawa-1.5953360

5] https://act.environmentaldefence.ca/page/83022/action/1?ea.tracking.id=NewsDN&ea.url.id=5316889

6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0LOwmwgkdA 

7] https://thetyee.ca/News/2021/05/18/Brutal-Legal-Odyssey-Jessica-Ernst-Ends/?utm_source=national&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=200521

8] https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justice_(allégorie)

9] https://www.nationalobserver.com/2021/05/18/news/%20stop-coal-oil-gas-investments-international-energy-agency

10] https://www.lapresse.ca/actualites/environnement/2021-05-19/rechauffement-climatique/une-feuille-de-route-pour-la-carboneutralite.php