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February 9, 2009

Alberta Oil kills 500 Ducks

CANADA/ENVIRONMENT - The slow death of 500 ducks on a toxic oilsands pond in northern Alberta last April has resulted in federal and provincial charges against Syncrude Canada Ltd.

Syncrude has been charged under the Alberta Environmental Enhancement and Protection Act and the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act. The charge specifies that "any person who keeps, stores or transports a hazardous substance or pesticide shall do so in a manner that ensures the hazardous substance does not directly or indirectly come in contact with or contaminate any animals."

Images of the dead and dying birds flashed around the world and has harmed Canada's reputation as an environmental leader.

Syncrude failed to take action to keep the ducks from landing on the pond, knowing full well that the ducks and geese would get caught in the oil and drown.

The provincial charge carries a maximum fine of $500,000. The federal charge carries a maximum penalty of $300,000 and six months in prison and is for "allegedly depositing or permitting the deposit of a substance harmful to migratory birds in waters or an area frequented by birds."

Syncrude claims they bought noise-makers used to scare waterfowl away but never installed them near the pond.

Syncrude earns more than $1 million a day off its oil operations. Toxic runoff/overflow from their operations also kills fish in neighbouring rivers and has contaminated local drinking water.

The penalty seem pretty paltry for a company that flagrantly ignores environmental policies and makes so much profit it can shrug off fines easily.

Maybe they should be charged $800,000 per duck? $400 million would send a stronger message to the Alberta oil industry to clean up their act. And if someone goes to jail, who will it be? We think it should be the CEO for failing to make sure his company complies with environmental policies.

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