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Regina prof granted Husky oil spill documents after lengthy battle with province

The Saskatchewan government has released the documents related to the Husky Oil spill to U of R professor Dr. Patricia Elliott following a two-year battle.
The Saskatchewan government has released the documents related to the Husky Oil spill to U of R professor Dr. Patricia Elliott following a two-year battle. Jonathan Guignard / Global News

A Regina professor has won her two-year battle for information against the Saskatchewan government.

Patricia Elliott submitted a freedom of information request into a 2016 oil spill in November 2017.

She said she finally received about 4,300 pages of internal documents pertaining to the Husky pipeline spill clean-up, in an announcement made Thursday.

“I think it’s just an illustration that ‘justice delayed is justice denied.’ I was looking at the [first] anniversary cleanup of that spill, there’s been two more summers since then,” Elliott said.

READ MORE: Husky fined $3.8M for charges arising from Saskatchewan oil spill

“We can presume there’s been continued mitigation because oil spills don’t resolve that quickly as may be advertised.”

“In the end, the ministries went through what would have been the normal process and they should have done that right at the beginning, the day I submitted the application rather than a blanket refusal.”

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Elliott even had support from the province’s Privacy Commissioner Ron Kruzeniski, who recommended the Saskatchewan government hand over the documents.

Their refusal has Elliott looking for legislative reform and more authority given to the privacy commissioner.

“You only have to look as far as Alberta. The commissioner there has order-making power, so had this happened in Alberta, I would have had the documents,” Elliott said.

READ MORE: Husky Energy wants to build Saskatchewan oil pipeline, replace one that leaked in 2016

“Unless the government is compelled to provide information under the legislation, they will avoid it. And for the most part, they can get away with it because who has the money to pursue this?”

Elliott said she is looking for “what the conversations are around the cleanup of an oil spill.”

“I’m studying oil field regulations so I would like to see the back and forth and communication between the ministries. It also helps establish the timelines,” Elliott said.

Elliott said she expects legal fees to cost somewhere around $5,000, but has already raised that much through a GoFundMe campaign.

Professor Emily Eaton still in battle with university over oil and gas research funding details

Meanwhile, another professor continues her freedom of information fight against the University of Regina.

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Emily Eaton’s request over external funding for fossil fuel research projects between 2006 and 2017 was denied by the school.

Emily Eaton is studying influence of oil and energy interests in Saskatchewan’s education system.
Emily Eaton is studying influence of oil and energy interests in Saskatchewan’s education system. Jonathan Guignard / Global Regina

She’s looking for the information as part of her research into the power and influence of the fossil fuel industries in the post-secondary education system.

Eaton said the university refused to release information “about the entities funding research to energy and climate change” at the school.

READ MORE: Professor taking U of R to court over oil and gas research funding details

“It doesn’t look good. As academics, we have the tradition of pursuing the truth and our research with full disclosure of research funders,” Eaton said.

“I think they are going against academic traditions and I think it’s appearing like they have something to hide and that’s never a good thing.”

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The privacy commissioner also agreed the information should be public. Eaton is heading back to court in February.

Eaton has already paid more than $8,000 in legal fees, and was informed by her lawyer on Thursday that she can expect to pay another $12,000 by the time this is finished.

She started a GoFundMe page to help cover the costs.