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TC Energy seeks to recoup costs from U.S. for cancelled Keystone XL pipeline project


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WASHINGTON — Pipeline giant TC Energy is formally seeking to recover more than US$15 billion in “economic damages” from the U.S. government following President Joe Biden’s Day 1 decision to cancel the cross-border Keystone XL expansion project.

The Calgary-based company officially filed a request for arbitration Monday with the U.S. State Department after it made its intentions clear in a notice of intent filed with the department earlier this summer.

“As a public company, TC Energy has a responsibility to our shareholders to seek recovery of the losses incurred due to the permit revocation, which resulted in the termination of the project,” the company said in a statement.

“We will not comment further and will follow the process as set out.”

Cancelling the presidential permit issued by predecessor Donald Trump was one of Biden’s first decisions when he took office in January, effectively ending 13 years of on-again, off-again wrangling that bedevilled three presidents and two prime ministers.

Over the course of its troubled history, Keystone XL became an enduring symbol of fossil-fuel excess for environmental activists determined to prevent what they considered a dangerous and damaging expansion of Alberta’s oilsands.

The company officially abandoned all hope for the expansion in June, and shortly afterward filed notice of its intent to seek compensation under the now-defunct North American Free Trade Agreement.

At the time, the company said it would be seeking more than US$15 billion in damages “that it has suffered as a result of the U.S. government’s breach of its NAFTA obligations.”

NAFTA’s replacement, the U.S.-Canada-Mexico Agreement, did away with its predecessor’s dispute-resolution mechanism, but allows companies to file legacy claims for lost investment under the terms of the previous deal.

State Department spokesman Ned Price confirmed receipt of the filing in his briefing Tuesday, the very day that Biden announced the U.S. would release 50 million barrels of oil from its strategic reserve to help slow spiking gasoline prices.

“Canada is a key U.S. partner in energy, as well as in efforts to address climate change and protect the environment,” said Price, who refused to discuss the filing in any detail.

“We look forward to working with Canada to meeting these challenges together. We will, and we know we must.”

Details of the filing will be publicly posted by the State Department “in the coming weeks,” he added.

The average price of gas in the U.S. is about 50 per cent higher than it was a year ago — currently about US$3.40 a gallon, which is about 90 cents US a litre, or C$1.14 under current exchange rates.

Some parts of the U.S., particularly in the west, are experiencing even higher prices. In California, the average price Tuesday of a gallon of regular gasoline in the state was US$4.70.

In Canada, where gasoline prices are typically higher than in the U.S., reported the average price on Monday was C$1.63 a litre, or about C$6.20 a gallon — roughly US$1.28 per litre or $4.85 a gallon.

The price increases in the U.S. add to Biden’s relentless series of post-pandemic headaches: opening up the strategic reserves and urging U.S. energy companies to open their production taps runs counter to his administration’s hard-charging efforts to invest in green energy and electric-vehicle production, with an eye toward eventually weaning the country off fossil fuels for good.

“The message is that we are in a transition, and the transition does not happen overnight,” Energy Sec. Jennifer Granholm told the White House briefing Tuesday.

The spike in prices is a direct result of what she called a “mismatch” between supply and demand, part of the lingering impact of the pandemic, coupled with the fact that energy companies have not returned to pre-pandemic production levels, Granholm said.

“This is a short-term strategy to make sure that people are not hurting,” she said. “The long-term strategy, to make sure that the country doesn’t hurt into the future, is to build clean.”

In Edmonton Tuesday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said, “the (Keystone XL) project was clearly in the best interests of the United States.”

Kenney and his United Conservative government committed $1.3 billion in direct financing to TC Energy Corp. for Keystone. Last June, the province said the investment of taxpayers’ money was a prudent gamble given the potential payoff in profits and jobs.

“I would hope that the (Biden) administration would reconsider its position given these emerging facts about a growing scarcity of global energy, but in any event, we’ve said from Day One that we believe there would be strong grounds to protect our investment and that of TC Energy,” Kenney said.

“We’re glad to see TC Energy proceed with the NAFTA case. We will be considering how best we can partner with them in that, and we think there’s a very strong claim for damages.”

Opposition NDP energy critic Kathleen Ganley said the approach by Kenney’s United Conservative Party government was reckless from the start.

“The UCP made a risky bet and lost $1.3 billion of Albertans’ money,” said Ganley.

“Premier Kenney promised to get the money back, but it’s not clear what, if anything, the UCP government is doing to keep that promise.

“It’s not even certain that if TC Energy is eventually successful in their bid for compensation, that they have to pass any of that along to the people of Alberta for the money lost.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2021.

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

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Alberta ombudsman says she doesn't have the power to probe EMS dispatch consolidation

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EDMONTON — Alberta’s ombudsman says she doesn’t have the power to investigate a complaint about the decision to consolidate ambulance emergency dispatch services in the province.

The complaint was filed by the cities of Red Deer, Calgary, Lethbridge and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

The municipalities have contended that the decision to consolidate the dispatch services to save the government money could put the lives of people in their communities at risk.

In a release late Friday, Ombudsman Marianne Ryan says the decision was technically made by Alberta Health Services, which her office is prohibited by law from investigating.

When the United Conservative government announced the consolidation in August 2020, then health minister Tyler Shandro said the province’s dispatch system would allow for better co-ordination of all ground ambulances and air resources.

At the time, the four mayors of the municipalities, none of whom are now still in office, said they were blindsided by the decision and would fight the change.

“While the issue being complained about clearly affects many Albertans, I am bound by my governing legislation to only investigate matters that are clearly within my jurisdiction,” Ryan said in the release.

“Given the substance of the complaint has been widely reported in the media and that it relates to an issue affecting a great many Albertans, I advised the mayors that I would be making a public statement.”

Last February, a judge granted an interim injunction sought by Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services after the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo stopped transferring emergency medical calls to the provincial dispatch centre.

The municipality, which includes Fort McMurray, stopped transferring calls after its council decided the provincial ambulance dispatch service was putting patients at risk due to delays and confusion.

A lawyer for Wood Buffalo had argued it was in the public interest for the municipality to keep handling emergency medical calls through its own dispatch centre.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2021

The Canadian Press

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Alberta Ombudsman can’t do anything about City of Red Deer complaint about 9-11 Dispatch

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Ombudsman Responds to Municipalities’ Complaint About Ambulance Dispatch

Marianne Ryan, Alberta’s Ombudsman took the unusual step of publicly commenting on a complaint received involving Alberta Health Services.

The City of Red Deer, along with the municipalities of Calgary, Lethbridge and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo filed a complaint to the Ombudsman regarding Alberta Health Services’ consolidation of ambulance emergency dispatch services.

The Ombudsman Act authorizes the Ombudsman to investigate administrative decisions of government ministries and many related bodies, but the Act specifically prohibits her from investigating decisions of Alberta Health Services (AHS).

“My office thoroughly analyzed the complaint and confirmed that the decision to consolidate ambulance dispatch services was indeed made by AHS. While many government-related bodies fall under my jurisdiction, AHS is not one of them,” stated Marianne Ryan, Alberta’s Ombudsman. “In fact, the Ombudsman Act specifically states that my powers of investigation do not apply to health authorities. My ability to investigate AHS decisions would require a change in legislation. While the issue being complained about clearly affects many Albertans, I am bound by my governing legislation to only investigate matters that are clearly within my jurisdiction.”

Investigations by the Ombudsman are conducted in confidence, and it is the Ombudsman’s general practice not to comment publicly on complaints, especially ones that are not being investigated.

“Given the substance of the complaint has been widely reported in the media and that it relates to an issue affecting a great many Albertans, I advised the mayors that I would be making a public statement.”

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