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Monday, October 22, 2007

Bill Hunter Speaks Out On the Dr. Dwarkin Incident and the Alberta Royalty Review Report.

I got an interesting email on Saturday night from Bill Hunter, the Chair of the Premier’s Royalty Review Panel. He has been a friend and a client for many years and we have had a number of chats since the “Our Fair Share” Royalty Review Report came out. That said he sent me what I think is an important email and we had a chat about it Sunday night.

There has been an unfortunate set of circumstances around the controversy caused by Dr. Dwarkin, one of the review panelists. It arises from her subsequent co-authoring of a “Royalty Review Report” entitled “Looking for Rent in All the Wrong Places” done by her employer the Ross Smith Energy Group. That document detailed some criticism over specifics in some conventional gas aspects of the “Our Fair Share” document. Some differences of opinion were stated as well as some points of agreement with the “Our Fair Share” findings and recommendations were also noted.

But some of the observations, language and representations in the review seemed intent on casting aspersions as to the capabilities of the expert panelists. Ironically that would include Dr. Dwarkin, herself an expert panel member. The Ross Smith Energy Group allege that “short cuts” were taken, the modeling methodology used by the Panel was not proper, the panel lacked “requisite industry expertise” and they did not have enough time to do the job.

This approach could be interpreted as another attempt to undermine the credibility and capability of the panelists as well as cast doubts on the reliability of final Royalty Review Report. Ross Smith Energy Group is not the first to use or be seen to be using, these tactics. They are, however, the first to do so with the aid and apparent abet of one of the expert panel members, who just happens to be in their employ as well.

It leaves one wondering, what was the motivation behind the Dr. Dwarkin’s co-authorship of her employer’s document? She also seems to be trying to disavow its content and context in subsequent media and other comments. This is all the more strange when you consider that she was the panelists who led the Royalty Review’s work on the conventional oil and natural gas aspects review, analysis processes findings and recommendations.

With all the examples of intimidation and coercive tactics that we have been seeing from some energy industry players, questions naturally arise over the circumstances and the context surrounding what Dr. Dwarkin did. Why did she do it at all under the circumstances? You have to questions the timing as well. I wonder why it was done just before the meeting of the Panel with the Premier.

The facts seem pretty clear and complete surrounding the context and content of the Dr. Dwarkin and the Ross Smith Energy Group "review" incident. I will leave it for others to interpret and pass their own judgment as to the consequences, motives and implications of those facts and the parties involved. Citizens will no doubt draw their own conclusions. I have no further comment on those questions and issues other than what appears in my previous postings in this Blog.

So in light of all of that, here is the email Bill Hunter sent me on Saturday night. For the record, he has never asked for an advanced look see on anything I have written on this Blog including the Royalty Review Report. He has never asked for me to write anything about the Royalty Review Report either. That said he read this Blog and gave me permission to publish this email.

I suggest Albertans also consider Bill Hunter’s words in any judgment and conclusions they choose to reach about this incident. Albertans need and are entitled to have confidence in the appropriateness and thoroughness of the royalty review process. They must be able to respect the capabilities of the expert people involved. There has to be authority, authenticity and reliability in the analysis and methodology used in reaching the “Our Fair Share” Royalty Review findings and recommendations. I believe there is no reason for Albertans to have any doubts whatsoever about any of these points notwithstanding the Dr. Dwarkin incident.

So here are Bill Hunter’s opinions and observations on those matters.

"My friend

The Our Fair Share report is a culmination of learnings, analysis, debates, arguments (for and against), thoughts and personal believes … in the future of Alberta through some stringent Terms of Reference, asked of Albertans.

Six extraordinary (extraordinary because they gave up their lives for 7 months to volunteer to participate in a Panel to ascertain whether Albertans get their fair share of revenues from “their” non-renewable energy resources) Albertans, many of which are North America’s top minds when it comes to; Royalties, Taxes and Fees, Business, Economics, Sustainability, Production and being Albertan … elected to design and deliver a report that came from a position of what they believe is compromise and balance.

Each Panel member brought unique and solid strengths to the mix of intelligence and compassion for the topics being discussed. Judith Dwarkin is an example of that strength; her careers and exposure to/and in the Energy world were critical to the balance we found in our deliberations, I am indebted to her contribution and appreciate her ability to represent the industry’s positions.

Today, Oct. 20th, 2007 … I feel that there are still 6 Panel members who stand behind their report and its intent to be a starting point for the launch of a new regime that embraces “continuous improvement” and will ensure Our Fair Share for the Owners, the People of Alberta!

Proud to be an Alberta Royalty Review Panel Member and it’s Chair,

Bill Hunter"