CNLOPB to seismic company: please stop suing us

Court cases heat up over board's right to release data

Ashley Fitzpatrick
Published on July 19, 2013

Facing a third lawsuit accusing it of unlawfully releasing proprietary offshore seismic data, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) pulled its accuser into court.

Over the last two years, Geophysical Service Inc. (GSI) has publicly claimed the CNLOPB and the provincial government inappropriately distribute the company’s seismic data from the area offshore Newfoundland and Labrador to private companies.

The offshore regulator promises an initial exclusivity period on data submitted to it by any company active offshore — as required by law — but makes no promises not to release the data beyond that set period of time.

The dispute over rights to the data led GSI to file suit against both the board and the provincial government in 2011.

That case has yet to be settled, but the company has gone on to file a related suit in Alberta, where it is headquartered.

It has since provided notice of a second lawsuit within this province — one that names the board and the provincial government as co-defendants alongside companies accused of accessing GSI’s data.

“The facts speak for themselves. We’re now being sued three times for the same thing,” said lawyer Amy Crosbie, representing the CNLOPB in Courtroom No. 6 at Supreme Court in St. John’s Thursday.

She was applying for a stay in proceedings in the second case against the board and the province.

During the morning hearing, the company was characterized as litigious and anxious to get more than one “kick at the can” in its dispute with the board.

The offshore regulator was referred to by GSI lawyer Brodie Gallant as a “snake,” devastating the company bite by bite, undercutting it with each free release of data.

When it comes to the case against the board, Crosbie argued the original suit filed by GSI will deal with all claims against the CNLOPB. She said the newer lawsuit is a duplication and should not be allowed, as per established civil case law.

“We do not agree — GSI does not agree — these two actions are the same,” Gallant said.

He said the case already underway is more about putting a stop to the free release of information. The other cases, he said, are about compensation for specific instances wherein information was released.

The latest notice of action is to meet a statute of limitations — preserving GSI’s right to press its case at a later date, he said. He added the company has no intention of pressing the suit at the present time.

“They are not required to file a defence at this time,” he said of the CNLOPB, suggesting the board jumped the gun in applying to have the latest action stayed.

Crosbie acknowledged the application being heard by Justice Robert Hall was “a bit of a pre-emptive strike,” but added the case is viewed as inappropriate, at least when it comes to accusations against the CNLOPB and the province.

Other lawyers for GSI, as well as an attorney for the private companies and an attorney for the provincial government took part in the hearing, but stayed out of the main arguments.

“A decision on (the) 2011 (case file) is going to have an effect on 2013 one way or the other,” said the judge.

Hall closed out the day by saying he would consider the two arguments and provide judgment at a later date.