No Fines, No Charges Laid for Mount Polley Mine Disaster

No charges will be laid against the Mount Polley Mine Corporation, owned by Imperial Metals, for the collapse of a tailings impoundment on August 4, 2014, that sent an estimated 24 million cubic metres of mining waste into the pristine waters of Quesnel Lake.

The incident, considered one of the worst mining disasters in Canadian history, was simply the result of “poor practices,” according to B.C. chief inspector of mines, Al Hoffman, and not due to “non-compliances.”

Hoffman released the results of a yearlong investigation into the tailing pond’s failure Thursday and did not recommend charges be brought against the mine or its parent company.

The Mount Polley mine was operating within existing regulation, Hoffman found, but failed to use best available practices. Hoffman made 19 recommendations to the B.C. government and the mining industry to prevent a similar event from occurring in the future. The recommendations include introducing a “designated mine dam safety manager” to monitor tailings facilities as well as improving records management and transparency around design, construction and operation of mining facilities.

B.C.’s Ministry of Mines currently has no rule in place for levying administrative penalties against mining operators. Upon release of the report, B.C. Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett said he hopes to introduce new legislation this spring that will give his ministry the power to impose fines to encourage compliance.

Pipeline Industry Promises to Review Disclosure Rules After Kinder Morgan Secrecy Scandal

pipeline spill Jimmy Jeong

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) is working hard to undo damage caused by pipeline company Kinder Morgan’s refusal to release oil spill response plans in British Columbia. The company's lack of disclosure angered the province of B.C., especially when it was revealed that Kinder Morgan released detailed spill response plans in Washington State for portions of the pipeline that extend across the border.

The pipeline association recently announced it would form a task force to address the issue, hoping to waylay growing public concerns by developing “guiding principles” for disclosure.

A number of our members have faced significant public pressure to disclose all information contained in emergency response plans. The CEPA task force will work to support that by establishing clear principles and guidelines that seek to find the right balance between the public’s right to know, the privacy of personal information and the security considerations also required for public safety,” Jim Donihee, chief operating officer with CEPA, said.

MLAs Request B.C. Government Withdraw from Federal Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Review in Legislature

Today members of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia will request the Liberal government pull out of the federal National Energy Board’s (NEB) review of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The review process has been at the centre of controversy recently after the NEB ruled Kinder Morgan did not have to disclose detailed spill response plans for the proposed twin pipeline that will nearly triple the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline system, increasing its capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000.

B.C.’s repeated efforts to gain access to Kinder Morgan’s emergency response plans, which detail the company’s preparations, timelines and access to equipment in the event of a spill, were ultimately unsupported by the federal regulator.

NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert will introduce today’s motion, requesting the provincial government “immediately withdraw from the National Energy Board’s review of the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tanker project.”

Bill C-46 Could Transform Pipeline Liability Law in Canada. But Will it Be for the Better?

This is a guest post by Ian Miron, Ecojustice staff lawyer. 

Proposed pipeline liability regime steps in the right direction, but leaves too much wiggle room for polluters.

At this very moment, Canada’s liability regime is woefully inadequate when it comes to making sure that polluters pay in the event of a pipeline rupture or oil spill. That means that Canadian taxpayers like you would shoulder an inappropriate degree of the risk in the event of a serious pipeline accident, like Enbridge’s Kalamazoo River spill in Michigan.

According to recent estimates, that spill — the largest in United States history — cost more than $1.2 billion to clean-up. By comparison, Canada’s strictest liability law would have only made Enbridge automatically liable for a paltry $40 million, while providing the company with an opportunity to wriggle off the hook for any further costs. 

Now consider that a number of controversial new pipeline projects have been proposed in Canada, each bigger than the last. Between Enbridge’s Northern Gateway (525,000 barrels per day), Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion (890,000 barrels per day) and TransCanada’s Energy East (1.1 million barrels per day), thousands of Canadians may find pipeline infrastructure — locking us into a fossil-fuel economy for another generation — snaking right through their backyards.

Mount Polley: A Wake-Up Call For Canada’s Mining Industry

Mount Polley Mine Spill

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

When a tailings pond broke at the Mount Polley gold and copper mine in south-central B.C., spilling millions of cubic metres of waste into a salmon-bearing stream, B.C. Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett called it an “extremely rare” occurrence, the first in 40 years for mines operating here.

He failed to mention the 46 “dangerous or unusual occurrences” that B.C’s chief inspector of mines reported at tailings ponds in the province between 2000 and 2012, as well as breaches at non-operating mine sites.

This spill was predictable. Concerns were raised about Mount Polley before the breach. CBC reported that B.C.’s Environment Ministry issued several warnings about the amount of water in the pond to mine owner Imperial Metals.

With 50 mines operating in B.C. — and many others across Canada — we can expect more incidents, unless we reconsider how we’re extracting resources.

Third Apache Pipeline Leak Releases Additional 1.8 Million Litres of Produced Water in Northern Alberta

A third leak recently discovered on Apache Canada’s property near Zama City in northwestern Alberta has released an estimated 1.8 million litres of wastewater onto 5 hectares of land, according to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER).

The spill was discovered on Friday, October 25th after an operator investigated a volume discrepancy at Apache’s Shekilie site, reports the Northern Journal. The leak is believed to have begun on October 3rd, according to Apache.

The released water is a waste product of Apache’s oil and gas operations in the area. Apache characterizes its operations near Zama as using “a novel enhanced oil recovery method to produce oil from what were once thought to be exhausted wells.”

Reports of the release came just one week after Apache announced it had discerned the cause of a much larger incident that occurred in June, spilling 15.4 million litres of produced water in a 42-hectare area. 

Breaking: "Huff and Puff" Technology Results in Bitumen Spill, Water Contamination at Cold Lake Tar Sands Project

cold lake bitumen tar sand oil spil primrose project CNRL

Authorities in the tar sands region in Alberta are responding to the release of bitumen emulsion at the Primrose project in the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, operated by Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL).

According to a press release from the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) “the affect area is off lease and has impacted a nearby slough. The company has begun clean-up operations. There were no injuries as a result of the release. The volume of emulsion released has not been confirmed at this time.” Media relations contacts were unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

Bitumen emulsion is a mixture of heavy tar sands crude know as bitumen and water from in-situ (in ground) oil production.

According to the CNRL website, the company uses a “huff and puff” technology also known as Cyclic Steam Stiumulation or CSS to develop bitumen at the Primrose project.

Line 9 Pipeline Deficiencies Concerns Landowner Associations

Line 9 Enbridge

Line 9 was built at the wrong time with the wrong materials, and forms part of a pipeline system in which ruptures and leaks on very similar pipes have happened on a fairly regular basis,” stated Ontario Pipeline Landowners Association (OPLA) lawyer John Goudy in his final argument at the Line 9A hearing in London, Ontario in May 2012.

The 37-year old Line 9 pipeline runs from Sarnia to Montreal. The pipeline's operator – Enbridge – wants to increase the capacity of Line 9 from 250 000 barrels per day (bpd) to 300 000 bpd. Enbridge also wants to ship 'heavy crude' such as bitumen from the Alberta tar sands through Line 9.

Line 9 is almost identical in age and design to the Enbridge pipeline at the centre of the largest inland oil spill in US history – Line 6B of the Kalamazoo spill in Michigan. The 41-year old Line 6B pipeline ruptured in 2010, spilling over 800 000 gallons (3 million litres) of bitumen into the Kalamazoo River and the surrounding area. The cleanup is still going on and could cost up to one billion (US) dollars.  

We are not anti-pipeline or anti-oil. We just want respect for our livelihoods and safe pipelines,” says Dave Core founding president of the Canadian Association of Energy Pipeline Landowner Associations (CAEPLA).

Two Oil Spills in Alberta Due to Inadequate Monitoring

Companies responsible for two separate oil spills in Alberta failed to provide adequate oversight for their operations, according to federal government documents released by Environment Canada through Access to Information legislation.

The documents detail how Devon Canada and Gibson Energy violated environmental laws, including the federal Fisheries Act, when their operations cause two oil spills into fish-bearing waterways in 2010.

Gibson Energy, a midstream pipeline operator, spilled a few hundred litres of oil into an Edmonton creek after failing to properly abandon an unused pipeline. According to a warning letter issued to the company from Environment Canada, “Gibson Energy ULC made a business decision to keep the Kinder Morgan lateral full of crude oil and to not purge it with nitrogen.”

Subscribe to Spill