Sept. 18, 2013

Law school marks historic day with first ever PhD thesis defence

Practicing lawyer completes doctoral research on oil and gas impact

Author

Ali Abel

Chidinma Thompson with her PhD supervisors, professors Alastair Lucas (left) and Arlene Kwasniak. While working to complete her PhD, Thompson practiced law with a team of energy regulatory and litigation experts at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP in Calgary.

Chidinma Thompson with her PhD supervisors, professors Alastair Lucas (left) and Arlene Kwasniak.

Sept. 9, 2013 was a big day for the Faculty of Law. It’s the day when PhD candidate Chidinma Thompson successfully defended her thesis and became the first student to complete a PhD at the law school.

Thompson’s thesis, “Making federalism through law: Regulating socio-economic challenges of energy development,” looks at the socio-economic challenges of large-scale oil and gas development within municipal boundaries, specifically in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

“Currently there is no forum in the framework that allows thorough consideration and proactive resolution of the socio-economic challenges prior to project approvals in this region,” says Thompson. “This research recommends a reform of Alberta’s legislative and regulatory framework for energy development using federalism and its underlying principle of non-centralization.”

Thompson witnessed the practical implications of unco-ordinated actions of various orders of government on industry and citizens. As she points out, “Law resolves most things in society, as we have seen in recent reforms in the energy development legal and policy framework. This issue is one that law should also be able to fix using legally-mandated intergovernmental partnerships to proactively reduce severe growth pressures, crippling demands on public infrastructure, and the quality of life for workers, to name a few.”

Thompson has been practicing law with a team of energy regulatory and litigation experts at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP in Calgary since 2009.

“It was a pleasure working with Chidinma over the last few years as a supervisor of her doctoral research,” says professor Arlene Kwasniak. “Her research is critically relevant, and I am confident it will not only be a significant contribution to the law discipline, but also to intergovernmental policy development.”

Being home to a successful PhD in this field demonstrates the Faculty of Law’s continued expertise in the areas of natural resources, energy and environmental law, and positions the law school as a key partner in one of North America’s most dynamic energy markets.

“One of the things which we’re particularly proud of at the law school is our graduate program,” says Calgary law dean Ian Holloway. “We’re the only law school in North America with a graduate program that specializes exclusively in energy, environmental and natural resources law, and it’s thanks to students, together with my colleagues researching in the area like Chidinma, that we have come to enjoy the global reputation for excellence that we do.”