Mayor, Environmental Society react to charges against Husky Energy

By Bryan Eneas
March 27, 2018 - 5:00pm

Prince Albert’s mayor says the fines against Husky are fair, while a provincial environmental group is calling for better pipeline regulation from the company responsible for spilling oil into the North Saskatchewan River.

In July of 2016, roughly 225,000 litres of crude oil-blend were released into the North Saskatchewan River, impacting the drinking water in North Battleford, Prince Albert and Melfort. On March 26, the provincial and federal governments announced they would be pressing charges against Husky Energy.

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne said the provincial charge and fine levied against Husky Energy are reasonable demands, based on the fact the company already put out roughly $20 million in clean-up efforts.

“The fine to me is minute considering what it cost them to clean the oil spill up, and I think that’s a deterrent in itself to make sure these incidents [don’t happen] in the future, because they’re so costly to clean up,” Dionne said.

The mayor said he is going to let both levels of government “do their thing” when it comes to laying charges on the energy company. He’s still pursuing his desire for a public apology from the company; work is still ongoing to make that a reality.

Dionne previously stated he is seeking $1 million in compensation toward the city, which he suggested could be used towards completing the rotary trail, replacing the Kinsmen Park paddling pool with a splash park called Husky Park, and investments in community centers.

He argued Prince Albert’s situation is different than the City of North Battleford, which had a similar request turned down by Husky Energy. He noted although the company paid its bills, the oil spill had other negative impacts residents felt.

Dionne also previously said he would consider legal action against Husky Energy, should they refuse to “voluntarily negotiate an apology.” Should the company apologize, the city of Prince Albert would agree to not claim additional costs from the oil spill.

Environmental Society calls for better regulation

The Saskatchewan Environmental Society said the provincial and federal charges against Husky sends a message that more steps need to be taken to improve pipeline safety in Saskatchewan.

Peter Prebble, the Director of Environmental Policy for the Saskatchewan Environmental Society, said the federal government is right for pressing charges under the Fisheries Act and the Migratory Bird Convention Act as wildlife died as a direct result of the oil spill. He said he’s glad to see the government taking a strong stance against Husky in this case.

“The other key thing though that’s missing from this equation that should, in the view of the Saskatchewan Environmental Society, [be] part of a settlement with Husky, is a requirement that Husky upgrade its oil pipeline system in the province, with respect to safety… especially at water crossings,” Prebble said.  

Prebble suggested the thickness of the pipes going under waterways should be increased, upgrading spill detection technology and regularly inspecting pipelines around bodies of water for ground movement. He said a precedent for these kind of regulatory changes had been set in the United States, when a pipeline owned by Enbridge broke in Kalamazoo, MI in 2010.

Prebble said he has yet to see any indication these kind of measures would be discussed during settlement talks.

Husky’s own investigation into the spill found the pipe in question burst following ground movement. The company installed thicker pipe on a sloped portion of the land where the pipe crosses the river in an effort to reduce the risk of a similar incident happening in the future.

 

-  With files from Tyler Marr and the Canadian Press

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