The application seeks licence amendments related to eight
hydroelectric generating stations owned by AbitibiBowater. The
amendments will facilitate the sale of the generating stations to
Bluearth Renewables, which intends to take advantage of incentives
for upgrades and expansions offered by the Ontario Power
Authority's Hydroelectric Contract
Initiative (HCI). The First Nations group
requested intervenor status with the intention of exploring the
adequacy of the Crown's consultation efforts with respect to
potential infringements of their Aboriginal rights. The group
argued that the sale of these facilities to Bluearth would result
in increased or expanded hydroelectric generation under the HCI,
which would change water levels and flows and impact their ability
to harvest wild rice.
In dismissing the request for intervenor status, the Board found
that the group did not have sufficient interest in the proceeding
as the proposed license amendments were not connected to the
potential infringement identified by the First Nations. While the
panel accepted that the duty to the consult could be triggered by
the HCI contract, it held that there was an insufficient nexus
between the potential infringement and the application to require a
review of the Crown's consultation efforts by the Board. In
support of its conclusion, the Board noted that it lacks approval
authority over the HCI contract and that the application would have
"no direct impact on water levels or flows" and was
"peripheral at best" to the physical operation of the
facilities. On that basis, the Board rejected the First
Nations' argument that it was the final decision-maker and
concluded that "the assessment of whether that duty has been
adequately discharged will reside elsewhere."
There are obvious parallels between this case and the Supreme Court
of Canada's decision in Rio Tinto, in which the Court found
that a energy purchase agreement with no physical impact did not
trigger a duty to consult. This is likely not the end of the road
for this case as the First Nations group has already indicated it
intends to appeal the decision to the Divisional Court.
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Canada is a constitutional monarchy, a parliamentary democracy and a federation comprised of ten provinces and three territories. Canada's judiciary is independent of the legislative and executive branches of Government.
The Government of Alberta recently announced a number of policy changes that will impact the Alberta Electricity Market, composed of its generators, transmitters, distributors, retailers, electricity consumers and wholesale electricity market.
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