Thursday, September 17, 2009

Charges Filed in Syncrude Duck Deaths Case

Here is a brief update on the Syncrude incident from May 2008. If you remember, 1,603 wild ducks landed in a retention pond holding the toxic oil tailings that result from Syncrude's oil sands operation. The company faces charges of violating both the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act and provincial environmental laws. It just pleaded not guilty and plans to fight the case.

Robert White, Syncrude’s lawyer, later told reporters the oil company has already expressed “deep regret” and “spent a tremendous amount of money to ensure it didn’t happen again.”

“To now charge us and bring us to court is not going to bring back 1,603 ducks,” he added.

Mr. White rejected a reporter’s question about whether Syncrude thought it was above the law.

“Of course not,” he said. “However, the law has recognized for a long time that when people do their best to avoid something, then that isn’t a matter for charges. That’s a matter for fix-up.”
I am glad that the company has acknowledged the problem and apologized. The trouble for Syncrude is that this is not a single isolated incident. It has a long record of migratory bird deaths, with hundreds of bird dying in its tailings ponds annually. The company clearly needs to do more to prevent these deaths from happening, and it is right for the Canadian government to enforce its laws.

Now if only the government had a good solution for the other environmental problems with the oil sands industry.