Last Friday, June 25, 2010, Syncrude Canada was found guilty for the death of over 1,600 ducks that dove into the tar sands giant 12 km2 tailings pond north of Fort McMurray in Alberta. The company was charged under the Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act for failing to avoid dumping hazardous waste in wildlife’s way and under the Migratory Birds Convention Act for allowing hazardous waste to be deposited in areas visited by migratory birds.
Syncrude has requested a hearing, saying that both charges are unfair. The hearing is scheduled for August 20, 2010. Upon completion of the hearing, a sentence will be given for one or both charges. Potential fines could be in the amount of $500,000 to the provincial and $300,000 to the federal government.
Syncrude claims the weather conditions at the time would not have permitted them to place the right deterrents although several of its employees stated that the company was not adequately equipped and was understaffed when it came to bird deterrent activities. Judge Ken Tjosvold also stated that Syncrude could have prepared their bird deterrent in advance and that “it was reasonable to take those precautions and Syncrude did not.”
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The case began as a private case that was initially filed by a Sierra Club member and later taken over by the provincial government.