Home
 
Choose Your City
Change City

Crown won't seek jail time at trial against Syncrude for oily deaths of ducks

ST. ALBERT, Alta. - Win or lose, executives of oilsands giant Syncrude will not face jail time for the deaths of 1,600 ducks on one of its oilsands tailings ponds.

ST. ALBERT, Alta. - Win or lose, executives of oilsands giant Syncrude will not face jail time for the deaths of 1,600 ducks on one of its oilsands tailings ponds.

Federal prosecutor Kent Brown said Tuesday that while one environmental charge against the company includes a maximum penalty of six months in jail for executives, he won't ask for that even if he wins the case. "That was never a consideration from our perspective that we would ever seek a prison term," said Brown outside court.

"It's just our view of the proper approach in this particular case."

Syncrude is defending itself against two charges - one federal and one provincial - that it failed to keep the ducks off a chemical pond near Fort McMurray, Alta., two years ago.

The ducks died after they landed on the viscous black bitumen on the surface of the pond and couldn't get free. Some became covered in oil and sunk, while others were eaten alive by ravens.

Syncrude, a consortium of oil companies developing the oilsands, was charged under Alberta's Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act and the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act.

The maximum penalty under provincial law is $500,000 fine, while the federal penalty is a maximum $300,000 penalty and jail terms up to six months for executives.

The company has been on trial for two months in provincial court north of Edmonton.

The Crown wrapped up its case Monday.

The lawyer for Syncrude, Robert White, says he will ask Judge Ken Tjosvold Wednesday that the charges are so similar, one should be dropped under the legal principle of "double jeopardy," which that forbids an accused from having to fight the same charge twice.

White also took the unusual step Tuesday of asking the Crown case be reopened so that he can re-cross-examine two witnesses due to confusion the first time around on what documents the witnesses were relying on when they testified.

Crown prosecutor Susan McRory agreed to have the witnesses called back for Wednesday and didn't challenge the motion in court.

"We're the Crown. Why wouldn't we accommodate the request if he can?," said McRory outside court.

White has also made it clear he doesn't plan to call evidence, clearing the way for final arguments later in the week.

The case, due mainly to the graphic exhibits of oil-soaked dead and dying ducks, has been broadcast widely and gone around the world on the Internet. It has also provided fodder for critics who say the billions of dollars in revenue from the oilsands - the fulcrum of Alberta's economy - doesn't justify the pollution and harm to environment and wildlife.

Syncrude president Tom Katinas has apologized for the dead birds, and the company has since ramped up measures to protect them.

Albert Premier Ed Stelmach has pledged to make companies clean up and get rid of the tailings ponds, but has not issued a timeline.

 
 
Consider AlsoFurther Articles