The province has charged Syncrude with violating Alberta’s environmental enhancement act yesterday by not leaving appropriate deterrents at a tailings pond located at the company’s Aurora North Site that killed 500 ducks last spring.
Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner said the company could face the maximum penalty of a $500,000 fine. More charges against the company are pending after a federal investigation looked into the case.
“We believe that there was a contravention of our legislation and, obviously, the federal government believes that there was a contravention of their legislation,” said Renner. “We are proceeding with those charges.”
The provincial government is also seeking an alternative sentencing if Syncrude is convicted of the charge, said Alberta Justice Minister Allison Redford, and it could include forcing the company to change existing “technologies” of the deterrents.
“We wanted to make sure we had enough (evidence) to lay the charges,” Redford said about the lengthy investigation.
Mike Hudema, an oilsands campaigner with Greenpeace, said he’s pleased with the decision, but he’s disappointed that it took officials 10 months to lay charges.
“The maximum fine is under $1 million, which is peanuts to a major company like Syncrude,” said Hudema.
Syncrude will review the charges, said spokesman Alain Moore, who said the incident has been “very difficult for the company.”
In a release after the incident, Syncrude blamed extreme weather conditions for making it unable to place propane-powered seasonal noisemakers at its tailings pond.
The company is slated to appear in a Fort McMurray provincial court March 25.
The incident that made international headlines has also left an oily black eye for a provincial government that has recently spent $25 million for an advertising campaign aimed at greening Alberta’s image when it comes to its oilsands projects.