Syncrude charged in deaths of ducks

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March 4, 2010 by Lain

St. Albert

Syncrude Canada is charged in the deaths of more than 1,600 birds, mostly ducks, in an April, 2008 incident which has environmentalists across the globe furious as the incident drew international attention to the oilsands industry. The birds died when they landed on Syncrudes Aurora tailings pond, about 75 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.

The industry giant is charged with failing to keep a hazardous substance from contaminating an animal under the provincial Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, and depositing a harmful substance in water frequented by birds under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act. If convicted on both counts, the company could face fines of up to $800,000.

Prosecutors say “This case is about Syncrude failing to protect birds,” and added “The number of birds is important, as it speaks to the degree of negligence”. The company had no air cannons deployed on its tailings pond when the birds landed.

Syncrudes defence council Robert White, speaking outside the St. Albert Provincial Courthouse, said Syncrude is pleading not guilty and urged the public not to jump to conclusions.

The case began Monday, and is expected to last nine weeks.

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