Husky Energy will be going to court over the 2016 oil spill near Maidstone, Sask, which saw 225,000 litres of oil leak from the pipe. Sixty per cent of the spill was contained to the land, and 40 per cent of the oil entered the North Saskatchewan River.
The province confirmed Monday that Husky will appear in Lloydminster provincial court to face one charge under the Environment Management and Protection Act (EMPA), as well as several other charges under federal legislation.
The EMPA charge alleges that Husky did “unlawfully permit the discharge of a substance to the environment that caused adverse effects.” The maximum penalty is a $1 million fine.
The province said that the report into the spill, which was led by the Minister of Energy and Resources, will not be released until the court process is complete.
The province said they will not be commenting on the matter further because the issue is now before the courts.
Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is pressing nine charges against the energy company, as a result of the 19 month joint federal and provincial investigation.
Eight of the federal charges are under the Fisheries Act. One charge is for allowing the deposit of a “deleterious substance” into water frequented by fish, which means allowing something like oil into a water way that degrades or alters the quality of water so it is hazardous to fish or fish habitat.
The ECCC pressed one charge for not notifying an inspector or authority of serious or imminent danger of the spill, and an additional six charges were pressed for failing to take all reasonable measures consistent with public safety and the protection of fish to prevent the offending event or mitigate adverse effects.
FULL COVERAGE: North Saskatchewan River Husky oil spill
Husky is also facing one charge under the Migratory Birds Protection Act, which prohibits the deposit of hazardous materials, like oil, in habitats frequented by migratory birds.
If convicted, Husky stands to face millions in fines.
In a statement, Husky spokesperson Mel Duvall said the following:
“Fundamentally, we accept full responsibility for the incident, as we have from the beginning. We deeply regret this happened and we are sorry for the impact it had. We have worked hard every day since to make things right and we have learned from it.”
“We will take some time to fully review the charges before responding.”
“We do want to thank the cities, communities, Indigenous peoples and government for their support and understanding throughout. It allowed us to forge stronger relationships with the communities in the region and we plan to build on those relationships.”
The Saskatchewan Environmental Society (SES) welcomed news of the fines Monday, but noted the penalties could be up to $1 million per day for the duration of the incident.
“Damage was done over the course of two months,” said SES board member Peter Prebble.
More importantly, according to Prebble, the society hoped to see the Saskatchewan government require Husky to make upgrades across its pipeline system in the province.
The group is calling on the province to require Husky to make the following changes on all pipelines at water crossings:
- Install automatic shut-off valves;
- Implement the latest spill detection technology;
- Ensure thicker pipeline is used at water crossings;
- And require vigorous ground movement inspections
“Really, the fine just does become a relatively minor penalty given that the costs of the spill and cleaning it up were over $100 million,” Prebble said.
“What we’re really looking for is measures to ensure that this kind of an event doesn’t happen again.”
The spill took place on July 21, 2016. The cleanup process took more than a year to complete.
Husky was given the go ahead from the province to restart operations of the pipeline in October 2017.
Saskatchewan’s information and privacy commissioner, Ron Kruzenski, has been calling on the province to release the inspection results of the pipeline between the spill date and 2011.
This stems from the Opposition NDP calling on the province to release a July 11, 2016 inspection of the pipe, 10 days before the spill.
Last Thursday, Environment Minister Dustin Duncan said the province has been advised to wait for an appropriate time to release that report, which would be when it becomes a public document through the court process, or if Husky pleads guilty to environmental charges.
James Smith Cree Nation, near Melfort, Sask., also filed a statement of claim against the province and federal government on July 21, 2017.
They allege the province ignored pipeline safety recommendations made by the auditor general four years prior to the spill.
Husky said they spent $90 million on the shoreline cleanup efforts, which removed 210,000 litres of oil from the environment.
With files from The Canadian Press and Global’s Ryan Kessler
CORRECTION: An earlier version of the story indicated “225,000 litres of oil leaked into the North Saskatchewan River.” From the total spill, 40 per cent of the oil entered the river. The rest remained on land.