The Energy East Pipeline approval application to the National Energy Board faced considerable opposition from numerous intervenors not least Indigenous communities, many of whom where concerned about the potential impact of an oil pipeline spill into the rivers and lakes on their fisheries and rice fields.
That application was withdrawn in 2017. The following case provides a reminder of the potential environmental and corporate risks of a pipeline spill.
On June 12, 2019, Husky Oil Operations Limited pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Fisheries Act and one count of violating the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994.
The company has been ordered to pay a fine of $2.5 million for violating the Fisheries Act and a fine of $200,000 for violating the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994.
The fines will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund and will be used to support projects related to the conservation and protection of fish and migratory birds within the North Saskatchewan and/or Saskatchewan River and their associated watersheds.
The charges are related to an incident that occurred between July 20 and 21, 2016, when an estimated 225,000 litres of blended heavy crude oil leaked from a Husky Oil Operations Limited pipeline. Approximately 90,000 litres of the oil entered the North Saskatchewan River near Maidstone, Saskatchewan. The oil was found to be deleterious, or harmful, to fish and migratory birds.
Husky Oil Operations Limited pleaded guilty to the following charges:
- depositing a deleterious substance in water frequented by fish or in a place where the deleterious substance may enter water frequented by fish, in violation of subsection 36(3) of the Fisheries Act, and
- depositing or permitting the deposit of a substance that is harmful to migratory birds, in waters or in an area frequented by migratory birds or in a place from which the substance may enter such waters, in violation of subsection 5.1(1) of the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994.
Environment and Climate Change Canada’s National Environmental Emergencies Centre responded to the July 2016 spill. Environmental emergency officers were on-site from July 22, 2016, to early October 2016 to provide regulatory oversight and guide efforts to protect the environment.
A year after the spill, in 2017, and once again in 2018, the National Environmental Emergencies Centre’s Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Team returned to the North Saskatchewan River to assess the water and shorelines, following the spring ice breakup.
Manning Environmental Law is a Canadian law firm based in Toronto, Ontario. Our practice is focussed on environmental law, energy law and aboriginal law.
Paul Manning is a certified specialist in environmental law. He has been named as one of the World’s Leading Environmental Lawyers and one of the World’s Leading Climate Change Lawyers by Who’s Who Legal.
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