By August 14, 2017 Read More →

Syncrude charged with 2015 blue heron deaths, maximum fine is $500,000

blue heron

Great blue heron Source: Wikipedia

Location blue herons died didn’t have waterfowl protection but does now

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has charged Syncrude Canada Ltd. for the deaths of 31 great blue herons found at a sump at the company’s Mildred Lake oil sands mine north of Fort McMurray in Aug. 2015, according to a press release.

The company has been charged with one count under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act for failing to store a hazardous substance in a manner that ensures that it does not come into direct contact with, or contaminate, animals.

If convicted, Syncrude could face a financial penalty of up to $500 000.


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The incident was reported to the AER on Aug. 7, 2015 and the first court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 27, 2017, in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

The sump where the Blue Herons died did not have waterfowl protection at the time of the deaths. Sumps are now part of its waterfowl protection plan, according to Syncrude.

“This incident has strengthened our resolve to make sure deterrent systems are in place everywhere they are needed at our sites. Our goal is to prevent the deaths of birds and wildlife as a result of our operations. We are deeply saddened by and sincerely regret the deaths of these blue herons,” said Will Gibson, media relations advisor for Syncrude.

blue heron

This isn’t the first time Syncrude has been charged for avian deaths, in 2008 they were fined $3 million after over 1,600 ducks died at one of the company’s tailings ponds.

Images spread around the globe of oil-soaked birds helped the environmental opposition against Alberta’s oil sands, according to the Calgary Herald.

Also in 2014, 122 birds died at three sites controlled by Syncrude, Suncor and CNRL.

“We are glad to see charges finally being laid against Syncrude, a company with a history of bird deaths on their tar sands operations. Syncrude didn’t have the safety equipment in place to protect these birds and, despite repeated assurances, continues to rack up an alarming number of wildlife incidents,” said Mike Hudema, climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Canada.

Hudema doesn’t believe the charges will result in real change.

“While we welcome the charges, the government needs to increase the penalties these companies face and begin to take action on the toxic waste water and tailings ponds that are growing by the minute. A fine that can be paid off by a few hours’ profit doesn’t send much of a signal to the company or to industry, and as long as these toxic ponds and lakes are around, these preventable deaths will continue to happen,” he said.

blue heron

Posted in: Jude on Alberta

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