STOP: Stop Tar Sands Operations Permanently

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Duck Invesitgation Nothing to Quack About

Posted by mhudema on July 11, 2008

Completed duck investigation nothing to quack about

Alberta Environment’s investigation into the deaths of 500 ducks at a Syncrude tailings pond last April was completed last week. However, it failed to address the government’s role and potential fines will have little impact, say environmental advocacy groups.

Mike Hudema, tar sands campaigner for Greenpeace Alberta, questions how the investigation avoided issues such as how often the government conducts inspections, whether or not there are enough investigators and why a tipster reported the incident rather than Syncrude. “I would say the investigation is not complete until the government’s role is looked at,” he says, adding the government should also make public all the evidence and information collected.

“Right now, the physical and documentary evidence has been collected and is being evaluated by Alberta Environment staff,” says Josh Stewart, spokesperson for Alberta Environment.

The evaluation should be completed within three to six weeks, at which point a decision will be made whether or not to pass it along to Alberta Justice to decide if any charges should be laid. According to Stewart, Syncrude could be fined up to $1 million, the maximum penalty under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act. At the time of the incident, noisemakers designed to scare birds away were not in place, which Syncrude blamed on poor weather conditions. Even if Syncrude is fined the maximum $1 million, it is a paltry amount for a multi-billion-dollar company that earns that much in a few hours, says Hudema.

The news comes a week after another environmental group compared the amount of fines levied against oil companies in the province to library fines collected in Calgary and Edmonton, which were 16 times more than what all the oil companies were fined for their environmental violations.

ForestEthics, a non-profit organization, found that in 2006, oil companies operating in the oilsands were fined only $249,000 despite numerous environmental violations, including 240 air quality exceedances by Suncor. By comparison, library fines in Calgary and Edmonton totalled more than $4 million in the same year,

“The tar sands is the largest fossil fuel project on the planet, home to toxic tailing ponds and Canada’s worst air quality, and yet Albertans are fined more for returning their library books late,” says Gillian McEachern, senior campaigner with ForestEthics. “Government and industry are saying the

tar sands are controlled by strict environmental standards, but the government’s own records show that’s clearly not the case.”

According to McEachern, Alberta environmental enforcement records for 2007 show Alberta issued two environmental protection orders against Syncrude and Suncor and one environmental enforcement order against Suncor. Neither company was prosecuted or fined. (TH)

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