Alberta Fort McKay First Nation reaches deal, signs Gag Order, drops lawsuit against Athabasca Oil Corp

Brion Energy reaches oilsands deal with Fort McKay First Nation, Agreement ends court battle over 250,000-bpd Dover project by Dan Healing, February 21, 2014, Calgary Herald
A deal announced Friday by Brion Energy Corp. with a northern native community is expected to kick-start a stalled 250,000-barrel-a-day oilsands project and permit the flow of $1.3 billion to its Calgary-based parent company. Stock in Athabasca Oil Corp., which owns Brion with partner PetroChina, jumped 90 cents or 11.5 per cent to close at $8.74 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. In a joint news release Friday afternoon, Brion and the Fort McKay First Nation said the band has agreed to drop its court appeal on constitutional grounds of the project’s August regulatory approval.

No details were given in the release, nor were spokespeople forthcoming, citing a non-disclosure clause in the agreement.

But Alvaro Pinto, director of sustainability and lead negotiator for the band, said the deal doesn’t restrict how Brion develops the project, nor is there a requirement for a buffer zone between the project and the Moose Lake reserve lands. … The Alberta Energy Regulator approved the Dover thermal project in August after rejecting a request from the band for a 20-kilometre no-development zone south of its Moose Lake reserve lands. It ruled Dover’s development would have “little if any impact” on neighbouring lands but the zone would exclude 1.2 billion to 1.4 billion barrels of bitumen from being produced.

The band then filed an appeal on the grounds that the AER had failed to consider its constitutional treaty rights in its decision and the Alberta Court of Appeal agreed to hear it in March. Meanwhile, the AER approval went to the Alberta cabinet for endorsement, where it has remained in limbo.

Pinto said the band reserves its right to protect its constitutional treaty rights in future while conceding withdrawing its appeal in the current case leaves the issue unresolved. Brion spokeswoman Kristi Baron said in an interview no details of the agreement are being revealed, specifically refusing to say whether Brion has agreed to restrict development or offer any additional financial or economic benefit to the band. The agreement was signed in the Fort McMurray area Friday by Zhiming Li, Brion president and chief executive, and Chief Jim Boucher of Fort McKay. Neither was available for interviews.

Analysts Mark Friessen of RBC Dominion Sercurities and Matthew Taylor of National Bank Financial said in notes the deal offers relief for Athabasca, headed by president and chief executive Sveinung Svarte. “While we believe a positive settlement of Dover has largely been priced into the stock, this is positive in that it ultimately should lead to receipt of the Dover proceeds of $1.32 billion which improves the company’s financial liquidity,” Friesen wrote.

“Athabasca now has line of sight to exercising the put with PetroChina and this alleviates go-forward funding concerns,” agreed Taylor, adding clarity on the issue could help Athabasca land joint venture deals in oilsands and in its conventional Duvernay acreage. Final OK of the Dover project is expected to trigger a put/call option allowing 60 per cent partner PetroChina to buy out Athabasca’s 40 per cent stake. Brion is the operating company. …
Like Hangingstone, Dover is to use steam-assisted gravity drainage technology and is proposed to grow through multiple phases. The first 50,000-bpd phase would cost about $2.5 billion to build, Brion said in its AER application. [Emphasis added]

Alberta band drops lawsuit over oilsands project: company says by The Canadian Press, February 21, 2014, Lethbridge Herald
An oilsands developer involved in a contested project in northern Alberta says an aboriginal band has agreed to drop its lawsuit. Athabasca Oil Corp. (TSX:ATH) says the Fort McKay First Nation has agreed to remove its objections to regulatory approval of the Dover Commercial project. The band had won the right to challenge the go-ahead granted under new provincial rules that don’t allow the Alberta Energy Regulator to hear constitutional arguments. The band argued that not being allowed to make its case before the regulator violated its aboriginal rights enshrined in the Constitution. The Dover project would eventually produce 250,000 barrels a day and would be operated by Brion, a joint venture between Athabasca and Phoenix Energy Holdings Ltd. [Emphasis added]

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