September 15, 2009

Oil firm pleads not guilty in duck deaths

Oil giant Syncrude Canada Ltd. filed a not guilty plea in an Alberta court Tuesday to charges it was responsible for killing more than 1,600 ducks last year.

The company faces both federal and provincial charges in an April 2008 incident in which dead ducks were found in a toxic oil tailings pond, the Globe and Mail reported.

Initially, it was reported 500 ducks had been killed by the oily pollutants, but the toll rose to 1,603 after officials found many of the dead fowl had sunk beneath the surface.

The company faces $800,000 in fines if found guilty in the trial scheduled to begin March 1, 2010.

Syncrude attorney Robert White told reporters the company has done everything it can to ensure there is no repeat occurrence.

The law has recognized for a long time that when people do their best to avoid something, then that isn't a matter for charges. That's a matter for fix-up, White said. To now charge us and bring us to court is not going to bring back 1,603 ducks.

The company said in its initial apology a snowstorm had disabled its noise-making cannons that keep waterfowl away, the Globe said.