Husky Energy faces millions in fines after federal, provincial governments lay 10 pipeline spill charges

Crews employ booms to protect a city water intake shortly after the spill last July. Herald file photo.

Alex MacPherson, Saskatoon StarPhoenix

D.C. Fraser, Regina Leader-Post

Husky Energy Inc. could face millions of dollars in fines after the provincial and federal government filed 10 charges in connection with a major pipeline spill in Saskatchewan almost two years ago.

Representatives of the Calgary-based company are expected to appear in Lloydminster provincial court on Thursday. The charges were laid under three pieces of environmental protection legislation.

Hours after Postmedia News reported that an announcement on the matter was imminent, the provincial government confirmed on Monday that it had laid charges in connection with the 225,000-litre spill.

According to a provincial government statement, one charge — filed under the

Environmental Management and Protection Act — alleges Husky “did unlawfully permit the discharge of a substance to the environment that caused an adverse effect.”

Eight other charges were laid under the federal Fisheries Act. The final charge falls under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act, according to a statement provided by Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Both the provincial and federal governments said they could not comment further, as the matter is now before the courts.

Husky spokesman Mel Duvall said in an email that while the company has accepted “full responsibility” for the incident since the beginning, it plans to review the charges before responding.

“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,” Duvall wrote.

Cathy Sproule, the Saskatchewan NDP’s Water Security Agency critic, again questioned the government’s refusal to release the full report of its investigation. The government said that will happen once all prosecution processes and appeals are finished.

“This is something that’s important … for the bottom line for oil companies. They need to know the regulatory requirements and ensure that those are protecting our land and our water and our air,” Sproule told reporters Monday in Regina.

The charges come just over a year after the provincial government turned its probe of the July 20, 2016 spill — which Environment Minister Dustin Duncan called “unprecedented” — over to prosecutors to determine if charges were warranted.

The provincial charge carries a maximum penalty of $1 million for each day an offence continues. Potential fines under both pieces of federal legislation can run into the millions of dollars, depending on the specific offence and offender.

Speaking with reporters in Regina, Duncan defended the decision to cap the fine at $1 million. He said it is “very significant” and should — along with other regulatory measures — deter companies from operating in a way that harms the environment.

The 16-inch pipeline leaked oil and condensate into the North Saskatchewan River near Maidstone for at least seven hours before it was shut down for routine maintenance. The company attributed the failure to ground movement.

The spill forced downstream communities, including North Battleford and Prince Albert, to establish secondary sources of drinking water, and cost a partly-owned Husky subsidiary at least $107 million to clean up.

— With Leader-Post files from Ashley Martin