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Osgoode Energy and Infrastructure Law LLM alumnus: Marty Venalainen

January 10, 2024


It was in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic that Marty Venalainen decided to enroll in OsgoodePD’s Professional LLM in Energy and Infrastructure Law.

“My son told me that overcoming COVID-19 was my generation’s responsibility and that overcoming climate change would be his generation’s responsibility,” he says. “I find the idea of saddling our children with a problem to which they did not contribute wholly unacceptable.”

While Marty’s career as an infrastructure lawyer already had some connections to confronting climate change, he opted for the Energy and Infrastructure Law LLM, mindful of the stronger connection between energy law and climate solutions.

Marty has been a lawyer with Infrastructure Ontario since 2013, currently serving as a Director on its Transaction Legal team. For the past few years, he has led IO’s legal team on the expansion and electrification of the GO rail network – an undertaking Canadian legal magazine Lexpert has described as “the most ambitious infrastructure project” the province has ever embarked upon.

“Aside from rail network electrification, even on more traditional infrastructure projects, there are many ways to structure transactions for energy efficiency and climate resiliency,” Marty says, noting that IO’s current projects include site preparation for Volkswagen’s new electric vehicle battery plant and bringing high-speed internet to rural communities, which will in turn reduce travel-related emissions.

“Infrastructure certainly has a role to play in addressing climate change, but not always the most direct one. Part of the reason the LLM was so attractive to me was that pairing of energy and infrastructure law in the same program,” he adds.

Over the course of his energy and infrastructure LLM, Marty studied subjects including power purchase agreements, demand side management, public utility law, international energy law, mining law, transportation policy and climate law.

It’s not the first time Marty’s personal convictions have motivated his professional decisions as he seeks to build a better world. After completing his undergraduate degree in Commerce, he began volunteering with Oxfam Canada and eventually served for six years on the charity’s board.

“Oxfam’s campaigns on levelling the playing field of international trade law and strengthening women’s rights served as lodestars while I completed my MBA and JD at Schulich and Osgoode respectively,” he says.

Shortly after beginning the practice of law at a full-service Bay Street law firm, Marty received a Lexpert Zenith Award for having provided pro bono legal advice to a group of small island states at the 2009 meeting in Copenhagen of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Following the birth of his two children, Marty decided to make a shift from the private practice of corporate and securities law to public service by joining IO.

“I find it rewarding to be able to tell my sons about how I help with the procurement and construction of public hospitals and transit lines,” he says.

In deciding to continue his studies by pursuing an LLM, Marty was drawn in particular to Osgoode’s Energy and Infrastructure Law LLM for various reasons.

“The part-time nature of the program and videoconferencing options were key, so I could balance my studies with my employment and family life. Further, I was impressed by the credentials of the faculty, which includes current and former senior leaders of organizations like the Ontario Energy Board, Metrolinx, and Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator,” he says.

Marty found class discussions with classmates not only from across Canada but from around the world also broadened his perspective.

Looking to the future, Marty is eager to use his newfound knowledge, whether with IO or another organization.

“2023 saw IO institute an ESG framework, with a significant emphasis on energy efficiency and climate resiliency and I’m keen to contribute to that. That said, I’m always open to any opportunity where I can lend my talents to creating a better world for my children and their peers,” he says.

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