Major fowl-up

Prosecutors say Syncrude Canada was the only oilsands company thatfailed to deploy noise cannons when 1,600 ducks died on one of itstailings ponds in northern Alberta two years ago.

Prosecutors say Syncrude Canada was the only oilsands company that failed to deploy noise cannons when 1,600 ducks died on one of its tailings ponds in northern Alberta two years ago.

Provincial and federal prosecutors also contend Syncrude workers responsible for deploying the noise-makers were not working that day in April 2008.

“Other companies in the area had deployed their bird deterrent devices,” Alberta Crown prosecutor Susan McRory said yesterday at the start of the oilsands giant’s trial on provincial and federal environmental charges.

“Syncrude failed in its duty to protect the birds.”

Federal lawyer Kent Brown said evidence in the trial will show that even placing tailings ponds underneath migratory bird corridors is against the law.

Syncrude lawyer Robert White unsuccessfully put forward a motion asking that someone else hear the case.

He took issue with the fact that provincial court Judge Ken Tjosveld used to work with McRory as a prosecutor before he became a judge.

White said he doesn’t believe the judge is biased, but added it is important the public does not have that perception.

White also asked the judge to consider trying Syncrude on either the Alberta or federal charge — not both.

“There is a legal parallel behind the two charges,” he suggested.

The trial is expected to last up to eight weeks.

The charges were laid after a flock of ducks landed on the 12.2-square-kilometre toxic pond on April 28, 2008.

Tailings ponds from oilsands operations contain billions of litres of tainted water used to separate thick, black bitumen that still needs refining from sand.

If found guilty, Syncrude could face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

 
 
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