The provincial government in Alberta filed a lawsuit against Syncrude Canada Ltd. and its joint venture partners in a row related to royalty payments. Bart Johnson, a spokesman for Alberta Energy, told Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail that provincial authorities filed the suit to keep the chance for negotiations open.
The lawsuit, the newspaper reports, states that Syncrude and others were "unjustly enriched" while the province was "correspondingly deprived" of tar sands royalties.
Alberta made more than $3.7 billion in royalties from tar sands last fiscal year.
Oil sands have become a hot-button issue in Canada and the United States. Canadian First Nations and provincial officials along the west coast have lodged complaints against plans by Enbridge Energy to build the Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline to western ports.
In the United States environmental groups have expressed concern about the prospects for TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline planned to move tar sands from Alberta to refineries along the southern U.S. coast.
U.S. lawmakers who've expressed their support for Keystone XL said the project would be a major boost to the economy and energy security. TransCanada, the company behind the project, needs a presidential permit for the pipeline because it would cross the U.S.-Canadian border.
The company had to reconsider route plans in Nebraska to allay environmental considers. It's expected to seek its permit Friday.