Natural gas plays a central role in various initiatives aimed at moving towards reducing carbon emissions. That role, however, sometimes appears inconsistent, indeed self-contradictory. On the one hand, as the cleanest-burning, lowest carbon-emitting of the hydrocarbon fuels, wider use of natural gas is often promoted as a “bridging fuel,” particularly to replace the burning of coal. On the other hand, some plans aimed at reducing carbon emissions include the direct reduction in natural gas usage itself. For example, as Christopher Bystrom and Madison Grist report in the lead article in this Issue of Energy Regulation Quarterly on “The Future of Gas Utilities in a Low Carbon World: Canada’s First Public Utility-Administered Green Innovation Fund,” British Columbia’s CleanBC Plan legislates a 40 per cent reduction in natural gas usage over the next decade, and encourages electrification. Such plans will no doubt present many issues for energy regulators, as illustrated by the authors’ discussion of the recent approval by the British Columbia Utilities Commission of FortisBC Energy Inc.’s Clean Growth Innovation Fund to be funded by customers and administered by the utility from 2020 to 2024.

The direct and immediate impact of the 2016 Fort McMurray was devastating. It remains the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history — and the fallout continues in the energy regulatory arena. Ian Mondrow explains in “The Fort McMurray Wildfire Cases: Life After Stores Block,” which analyzes the different outcomes in two decisions by the Alberta Utilities Commission addressing requests by ATCO Electric Ltd. (AEL) for recovery of the undepreciated costs of assets damaged or destroyed in the Fort McMurray fire and the contemporaneous Wood Buffalo National Park fire.

Entry into force on July 1, 2020 of the “new NAFTA” was an important milestone in Canada–U.S. trade relations. The implications for the energy industry were analyzed in the last issue of ERQ in “Update: NAFTA 2.0: Drilling Down – The Impact of CUSMA/USMCA on Canadian Stakeholders.”[1] In this issue of ERQ, Gordon Kaiser (co-Managing Editor of ERQ) discusses the significance for energy investors of the abolition by Chapter 11 of the new Agreement and concludes that it may not turn out to be that significant.

In the latest of his periodic contributions, bringing to ERQ commentaries on U.S. developments of interest to the Canadian energy regulatory community, Scott Hempling discusses the question “US Energy Mergers: Is “No Harm” the Right Test?”

The “honour of the Crown” and the duty to consult continue to play critical roles in the regulatory review of resource development projects, particularly energy developments. In “Resource Projects and the Honour of the Crown,” Martin Ignasiak, Sander Duncanson and Jesse Baker examine two recent decisions. The first, by the Alberta Court of Appeal, found that the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) improperly failed to consider the honour of the Crown separate from the duty to consult on a proposed oil sands project. The second, by the Nova Scotia Supreme Court found that provincial Minister of Environment improperly failed to consult on asserted Aboriginal rights and title beyond the scope of the physical impacts of a proposed gas project.

Not all issues relating to relations with Indigenous peoples and relevant to energy regulators arise from the duty to consult however. In commenting on a recent decision of the Manitoba Court of Appeal overturning a decision of the Manitoba Public Utilities Board, Patrick Duffy comments that the decision “raises the fascinating question of how long-standing principles of utility regulation should be interpreted and applied in light of the recognized need to advance reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.”

The final case comment in this issue of ERQ, by Marie Buchinski and Stephanie Ridge, reviews a recent decision of the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) denying an application by NOVA Gas Transmission Ltd. (NGTL) for leave to abandon facilities that are part of NGTL’s extensive system of pipelines and facilities in Alberta. While the decision was specific to the NGTL application, the authors note that it provides guidance to all proponents who may be considering applications for leave to abandon CER-regulated facilities. Furthermore, the decision is of interest as observers monitor the evolution of the CER as successor to the National Energy Board.

  1.  John M. Weeks et al. “Update: NAFTA 2.0: Drilling Down – The Impact of CUSMA/USMCA on Canadian Stakeholders” (2020) 8:2 Energy Regulation Q 20.


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