September 15, 2009

Alberta tar sands energy firm pleads not guilty in birds’ deaths

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Syncrude, an Alberta oil sands giant, pleaded not guilty Monday in the deaths of approximately 1,600 ducks in one of its tailings ponds in April 2008, reports Sarah O’Donnell in the Edmonton Journal. The migrating ducks landed in a pond near Fort McMurray, were coated in oil residue, and sank to the bottom. Only eight survived, five of which went to Edmonton’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. The remaining three were released. The deaths in what’s also known as the Alberta tar sands region violate the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act. Syncrude says it is doing all it can to make avoid a repeat case. Syncrude lawyer Robert White had this to say:

Syncrude is not above the law. However, the law has recognized for a long time that when people do their best to avoid something, that isn’t a matter for charges. That is a matter of fix-up… And it is not possible for anybody to do more than Syncrude has done to ensure it never happens again.

The company is still fighting the charges.

North of Fort McMurray, Greenpeace activists have seized a giant dump truck and shovel from Shell’s Albian Sands open-pit-mine, reports Richard Warnica in the Edmonton Journal. More than 25 people chained together pickup trucks to block off the dump truck, then climbed to the top and chained themselves down. Spokesman Mike Hudema says the group is prepared to stay until people listen to the message proclaimed on its banner: “Tar Sands: Climate Crime.” The protest comes one day before Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., where energy is expected to be on the agenda. It also comes just less than three months before the Copenhagen global summit on climate change.

— Emily Linroth

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