Seismic company continuing with lawsuits

Geophysical Service Inc. wrong in its belief of improper data use, says Nalcor

Ashley Fitzpatrick
Published on December 17, 2013

The chief operating officer of Geophysical Service Inc. (GSI) says he will go as far down the legal road as he has to, in order to have his complaints against Canada’s oil companies and offshore regulators recognized.

More importantly, COO Paul Einarsson explained to The Telegram, he wants his company losses publicly acknowledged and addressed.

Geophysical Service Inc. has filed lawsuits in jurisdictions across the country, with more to come according to its COO.  The company is alleging improper use of offshore seismic data it collected over decades — data it sells to pay its bills.

GSI’s complaints are directed at a collection of oil companies, service providers and regulators, including the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB).

The company’s claims have yet to be proven in court but, in Newfoundland and Labrador, filings and responses from government and the offshore regulator led to a trio of court decisions in November.

The cases were largely procedural, leaving GSI’s initial claims of unfair treatment as yet undecided.

GSI’s fight has included trying to use access to information requests to figure out who holds its data and if data has been improperly transferred between companies and regulators within the oil industry.

“With Nalcor (Energy) there’s a very unusual thing I haven’t seen with any other government agency — and we’ve done about 300 access requests (nationally). Nalcor just refuses to answer,” Einarsson said.

On Monday, Jim Keating, vice-president and lead of Nalcor’s oil and gas division, said the Crown corporation has moved through the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPPA) process with the seismic company.

On the other hand, private companies facing complaints from GSI are not subject to the same access to information legislation.

As previously reported, the seismic company moved one of its complaints against Nalcor straight to the Supreme Court, but lost the battle, as the judge found the requested information — if it indeed exists — would be considered commercially sensitive.

In other words, the release of such information could potentially damage the bottom line for Nalcor Energy and, by extension, the provincial government.

“I think the judge’s ruling, Justice (Robert) Hall, back in November essentially supported (Nalcor’s position), in that the information we have that GSI purports belongs to them is indeed commercially sensitive and cannot be revealed through the ATIPPA process,” Keating said.

“Outside of that, the only thing I can say is we’ve long maintained that Nalcor does not have any GSI data. Never did and obviously likely never will. But GSI refuses to accept that. That’s not something we can control.”

Einarsson does not believe Keating, the provincial government, the federal government, the CNLOPB and the oil companies it is now fighting in courts from Halifax to Calgary to St. John’s.

Einarsson said the company is appealing the ruling relating to Nalcor and access to information in this province.