After pleading guilty, Husky Energy will have to fork up $3.8 million for a 2016 oil spill into the North Saskatchewan River.
Husky pleaded guilty to three charges in Lloydminster Provincial Court on Wednesday to causing a spill of 225,000 litres of oil into a body of water near Maidstone. The spill affected several communities causing them to shut down their river intakes and find other ways to supply water to residents.
During the court hearing, the Crown withdrew seven of the ten charges the company was facing. Husky was originally facing one provincial charge and nine federally.
$2.5 million plus an extra $200,000 from Husky was requested by the federal Crown to go towards fish and bird conservation projects in the area. The provincial Crown prosecutor, Matthew Miazga asked for combined fine and victim surcharge total of $1.12 million.
“There’s never been an environmental incident of this significance in the province before.”
In order to ensure proper sentencing, Miazga says the prosecution had to look to other provinces and jurisdictions who have had similar events happen to them. He believes the judge did a good job of evening out all the factors involved in the case in order to come up with a penalty.
“[The Crown] did a good job of trying to illustrate that there has to be a balance and that companies need to carry on business. We need to have to have oil for our society but on the other hand, it needs to be done safely.”
Miazga believes Husky has responded appropriately to the spill but if the company chose to turn off the pipeline on the afternoon of July 20, 2016, the investigation, costs of trial and many other factors could have been avoided. Husky had shut down the pipeline at 10 AM on July 21, the spill had started the previous day. The authorities were notified of the spill in the early afternoon of July 21.
VP of pipelines for Husky Energy Duane Rae says the company apologizes for the spill and the significant impact it had on surrounding communities. He says Husky has been working hard since the spill to set things right.
“There is no doubt that it has a detrimental effect on Husky’s reputation and the industry as a whole and that’s very unfortunate. We took this very seriously, took responsibility for it, we have expended a lot of money for the cleanup, over $140 million.”
A new policy has been created by Husky that will allow sections of pipelines to shut down if the cause of an alarm isn’t located within 30 minutes. Also, Six spill-response team boats were purchased by the company.
The judge ordered to the company to complete further follow up studies and analysis, which Rae says Husky was planning to do anyway. He adds the company has really changed the way it monitors and operates its pipelines.
“We have put in routine geotechnical monitoring, we have changed the way our control room operations work, we put in more rigid standards and procedures, we have invested a lot in equipment and training to make sure we are better prepared for an emergency such as this one.”
Rae adds Husky has advanced the way it builds new pipelines. He says a thicker pipe and fibre optic monitoring will be used in a new crossing being built.
“Where we’re building a new crossing of the North Saskatchewan River, we’re drilling 1.8 kilometres under the valley… very deep under the river.”
Had the case gone to trial, the judge estimates could have lasted anywhere between two to four weeks.