Pieridae Energy CEO Alfred Sorensen and Natural Resources Canada Minister Seamus O’Regan

Pieridae Energy, the Alberta-based company that is seeking $925 million from the Canadian government to jumpstart its proposed Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant in Goldboro on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore, is threatening legal action against five signatories to an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier Iain Rankin, and a long list of elected federal and provincial government ministers and officials, which asked that they not provide any financing for the plant.

In a March 19 letter to the five signatories, Pieridae general counsel Thomas Ciz writes that they are “in receipt of Confidential Information, including a power-point presentation” and that this was “unauthorized.” 

See the PowerPoint presentation here.

Further, Ciz says, they used and disclosed the information to “other persons (including news publications) for the express purpose of damaging Pieridae’s commercial prospects of developing and constructing the Goldboro LNG Facility.” 

The Power Point in question is a leaked document that Pieridae presented to federal officials in December 2020, in which it requested $925 million from the Canadian government as a grant, or repayable contribution or loan guarantee to help it secure pipelines from Alberta to the site of the proposed plant in Nova Scotia. 

Ciz writes that on August 6, 2020, a “multi-party no-disclosure agreement” was “executed by Pieridae Energy Limited and the governments of Canada, Alberta and Nova Scotia.” Such an agreement “imposes on the recipients of any Confidential Information of Pieridae an obligation to treat that information as confidential and to not disclose the Confidential Information to any third party without the Pieridae’s prior written consent.” 

The letter to the signatories continues: 

You and the organizations which you represent and others have unlawfully used and disclosed that Confidential Information knowing, or which you reasonably ought to have known, was protected from any use and disclosure by unauthorized persons, and that you did so with the express purpose of causing economic damage to Pieridae.

Ciz writes:

I have been instructed by Pieridae to bring your unlawful actions to your attention and to demand that: 

1. you cease and desist immediately from disclosing the confidential information of Pieridae to any person; 

2. you cease and desist immediately from using the confidential information of Pieridae for any purpose; and 

3. you immediately notify me as Pieridae’s legal counsel of (a) the identity of each individual from whom you received the Confidential Information and circumstances under which you received that information, and (b) the identity of each individual to whom you have disclosed the Confidential Information and the circumstances under which you disclosed that information; and 

4. you take action immediately to mitigate the damage that you have already caused, and which is continuing to be caused, to Pieridae including retracting the Communication and you immediately notify me as Pieridae’s legal counsel of your mitigation efforts.

The Pieridae lawyer gives the signatories of the letter until 5 pm Calgary time on March 23, 2021 to respond to these “requests,” saying:

Pieridae is taking legal advice and will be commencing proceedings to redress your unlawful actions to the fullest extent of Pieridae’s rights under the law including seeking injunctive relief and seeking full restitution from each of you personally and from the organizations that your [sic] represent for all damage caused by your actions.

“Govern yourselves accordingly,” Ciz writes at the end of the letter.

Reaction from Germany 

One of those who received the letter from Pieridae’s legal counsel is Andy Gheorghiu, a “campaigner and consultant for climate/environmental protection, energy policy & further development of democratic processes” in Germany.

In an email to the Halifax Examiner, Gheorghiu wrote that he only supported the letter to Canadian government officials “in solidarity” and that he can’t comply with Pieridae’s demands because he “cannot delete links, articles, Uploads, etc.”

Gheorghiu emailed this statement in reaction to the letter: 

I am a German citizen and — together with many groups on both sides of the Atlantic — I oppose the climate hostile stranded asset LNG Goldboro project.

As an activist and campaigner, I’ve co-signed (in solidarity and support) the open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Iain Rankin. This was just another open letter we’ve sent to officials to highlight the negative impacts of this project and the high financial risk for state officials and ministries who’ve been approached by Pieridae to co-finance this 8-year-old-zombie-project because it can’t lift off without public funding (see for example https://environnementvertplus.org/open-letter-to-finland-your-involvment-in-the-goldboro-lng-terminal-project/).

The Canadian company also wants to have a loan guarantee from the German government which they haven’t received yet — despite somewhat different communications about this in the Canadian press (see for example https://www.bmwi.de/Redaktion/DE/Parlamentarische-Anfragen/2019/10-260-262.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=2).

Now, I (together with the other signatories) have received a threatening letter in relationship the proposed Nova Scotian funding for the LNG Goldboro plant (see attachment). This is outrageous and shows how desperate the company must be in its attempt to shut up climate activists and the truth about a climate hostile stranded asset project.

I will also inform the German Ministry for Economy who still has to decide over the loan guarantee. I don’t want to see my taxpayers money being wasted for the LNG Goldboro project and I don’t think any private company has the right to stop me from raising these issues. We live in the 21st not the 19th or 20th century and global warming is increasing by the hour because of projects such as Goldboro. These companies owe us compensation for the damage they’ve already done to the climate and we will most certainly not let them do more harm. The fossil fuel industry and their addicted supporters must wake up to this reality!

Funding request not really a big secret

The funding request for the proposed LNG plant in Goldboro comes as no surprise to those who have been following the story. 

Last October, in part 1 of its two-part series on the LNG project, “The Goldboro Gamble,” the Examiner reported that potential loan guarantees for the project from the government of Germany worth US$4.5 billion were just that — potential — and that the Letter of Intent for the loan guarantees as “not legally binding.” 

That October article also noted that:

In late May [2020], the Examiner asked [Pieridae CEO Alfred] Sorensen about an April conference call the company had, in which he mentioned that Pieridae was lobbying the federal and Nova Scotia government, hoping to get $1 billion in financial help, “a hand up, not a hand out,” and whether he was optimistic this would be forthcoming.

“I have no further comment on this at the current time,” he said.

However, Sorensen did say he was confident they can “reach the final investment decision provided market conditions improve the [sic] allow for the financing to occur,” adding, “We continue to invest in the project and with the cooperation of our partners in the project we believe we can be on stream by Q1 2025.”

More recently, the Halifax Examiner reported on the leaked documents and Pieridae’s quest for federal funding here, and its lobbying blitz in Ottawa here.  

The CBC’s Frances Willick has also reported on the power point and the company’s ask for federal financing here and here.  

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Joan Baxter is an award-winning Nova Scotian journalist and author of seven books, including "The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest." Website: www.joanbaxter.ca; Twitter @joan_baxter

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  1. I haven’t contributed directly to the Examiner’s legal fund, though I know some have, except in the form of my subscription. I feel a bit guilty about that given the great work being done. That said, if an oil and gas company sued to get you to reveal sources or take down articles I’d contribute whatever I can spare. It’s a cartoonishly evil enterprise.

  2. Well if there’s one way to show you’ve got bad intentions it’s threatening a SLAPP lawsuit against people who are just repeating things that you’ve said.
    Paraphrased as ‘Don’t use my words against me’