Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Part 4 - All the King's Men - Danny Williams

This story starts with a guy named Tom Tatham. You probably haven't heard of him before. He's an American business man who, back in the late 1990's, came to the conclusion he wanted in on the natural gas scene on the east coast of Canada. Tatham created two companies in late 1997 to accomplish the task: Tatham Offshore Canada Limited, a Massachusetts registered corporation; and North Atlantic Pipeline Partners (NAPP), a Delaware registered corporation. The board of directors of NAPP included a number of Newfoundlanders: Danny Williams; Craig Dobbin; Angus Bruneau; and Cabot Martin. Tatham's first goal was to secure the natural gas resources off Sable Island, that could hook up to a pipeline from the Grand Banks. However, NAPP was too late getting in, and the federal government would not consider his application.

Tatham and company changed strategies, and decided to focus on the natural gas off Newfoundland, and to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Placentia Bay. On April 17, 2001, Newfoundland LNG Company Inc. was incorporated in the province. It's name changed again in 2005 to simply Newfoundland LNG Ltd. The group became very involved in the province. The battle lines were drawn roughly between the then Mayor of St. John's Andy Wells (along with his group known as "The Friends of Gas Offshore" - of which Newfoundland LNG was one) and the oil companies. Wells, NAPP and company wanted a fixed offshore platform for the White Rose oil development. That would enable extraction of natural gas by concrete pipe to an onshore LNG plant - owned by Tatham's Newfoundland LNG of course. The oil companies argued the most efficient platform was a floating platform - which would finish off the chance of piping natural gas to an LNG plant. Newfoundland LNG dumped just over $4,800.00 in political donations to the then in power Liberals, but the oil companies got there way, and Newfoundland LNG was left holding the bag.

While all this drama was unfolding, Danny Williams, former director of Newfoundland LNG, took over as leader of the PCs and leadership of the Official Opposition. Neither Tatham or Newfoundland LNG donated any more money to the Liberals after 2002. In 2003

Williams won the provincial election, and began rewriting the province's energy priorities. Next up for Williams was fighting with the oil companies over the Hebron offshore field. While that battle was going on, Newfoundland LNG had secured two important partners for its proposed LNG facility in Newfoundland. SNC Lavalin/ BAE Newplan Group became invested in the project as project managers and engineers, while Stantec-owned Jacques Whitford was secured as environmental consultants to guide the project through Newfoundland and Labrador's environmental process.

Moving along side Newfoundland LNG's project for Placentia Bay was another big hitter project - the Newfoundland and Labrador Refining Corporation (NLRC) -  being advanced by Altius Minerals. NLRC also had SNC Lavalin/BAE Newplan Group as its engineering and project management company, and it was aiming to be built in Placentia Bay as well.

In 2006, Newfoundland LNG and Tatham started donating to political parties again. Newfoundland LNG donated $4,800.00 between 2006-2007, and Tom Tatham himself wrote a cheque for $4,000.00 as well in 2007. This time all the donations went to the PC Party, with Tatham's own donation being to PC Party's reelection fund for the 2007 election. In addition, SNC Lavalin's BAE Newplan Group donated $23,750.00 to the PC's in the years 2006-2008, and Jacques Whitford donated $3,250.00. Here's the problem - Newfoundland LNG was undergoing an environmental review process of its LNG plant from November 23, 2006 to January 19, 2007. In other words, the company, the principal owner, the engineering company, and the environmental engineers were making political donations to the people who were in charge of the environmental review - the PC Party. Furthermore, as leader of the PC Party and Premier, Williams could hardly be accused of not knowing the players.

Coincidentally, the Newfoundland and Labrador Refining Corp started their environmental process on October 25, 2006, and ended it on May 2, 2008. An even bigger coincidence? SNC Lavalin started working with them in early 2006.

During this part of SNC's corporate history, LNG and refinery projects were its biggest money makers - whether in North America or the Middle East. It was during this time, and later, that SNC's Ben Aissa traveled the globe bribing officials for large government contracts. Ben Aissa was named as a director of a little known company in Newfoundland and Labrador called BAE-SNC Limited. It was essentially a shell company, with no apparent reason for existing. SNC claims he was only with the company as a director for about a year, and it was voluntarily dissolved on December 31, 2008. The question has always been why? Why was Aissa placed as a director of a shell company for one year, in Newfoundland and Labrador,  and then the company was struck completely from the records?

Williams had tried, during 2006, to force the oil companies to back a new refinery as part of the Hebron development project. They refused. In August, 2008, Williams caved on the refinery issue and signed Hebron. Two months later SNC sued the refining company and its shareholders. Two months after that Ben Aissa and the SNC shell company were struck from the record.

On May 14, 2009, SNC Lavalin bought Danny Williams' two offshore service companies: Spectrol Energy Services; and Williams' interest in Atlantic XL - while he was premier. Three weeks later, Newfoundland LNG President Mark Turner announced the LNG terminal project at Placentia Bay was dead in the water. Turner had hoped to buy the company off its American owner (Tom Tatham) and carry on, but that was a pipe dream - pardon the pun. Tatham had already moved his interest to the British Columbia coast, and was using one of his subsidiaries, Maverick LNG, and a ship bought to extract gas off Newfoundland, to try the same plan with natural gas in Kitimat, BC.

Was all of this business as usual in Newfoundland and Labrador? Was Williams' looking after our interests in the offshore negotiations, or was he looking after his and his friends? It's clear that if Williams' plan to build both a LNG facility and a refinery at Placentia Bay were successful, that SNC Lavalin would have struck the mother load here. Is that why Ben Aissa was named to that numbered company, and then vanished when the deals collapsed? Was buying Williams' two offshore service companies part of the deal? Was it acceptable for Williams to accept corporate donations from companies involved while they went through environmental screening by his government? Does any of it pass the smell test? Or, was it just a case of the King being the King.


Maverick LNG, the subsidiary of North Atlantic Pipeline Partners mentioned above also registered itself in Bermuda for unknown reasons. The company was struck from Bermuda's corporate Registry in July, 2011 for inactivity.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome that contribute to the discussion or foster further debate.

In the interests of ensuring that people take responsibility for their own words, individuals can make comments using their Blogger ID or OpenID.

Profiles should be open to the public and reveal an e-mail address so that people may contact the commenter directly.

Anonymous comments, including those from people using fake, apparently fake identities, or profiles without contact information may be deleted. Spam will be deleted as soon as it is identified.