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October 1, 2010

Suncor Energy charged for failing to manage stormwater runoff

Alberta Environment has charged Suncor Energy Inc. for allegedly failing to manage stormwater runoff at an oilsands construction site near Fort McMurray.

However, a company spokesperson said they did not intentionally mislead the provincial regulator.

“The charges relate to non-compliance with Suncor’s Water Act licence and approval that requires them to follow their water management plan, as well as providing misleading information to Alberta Environment regarding storm water runoff,” said a press release from Alberta Environment.

“The alleged activity resulted in discharges of storm water (a mixture of rain water and dirt from the construction site) into the Athabasca River in May 2008, during the first stages of construction of the upgrader site.”

As a result of this alleged activity at the Voyageur upgrader construction site, Suncor faces six counts under the Water Act and three under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.

“The press release refers to misleading information that was provided by Suncor,” said Brad Bellows, manager of corporate communications at Suncor.

“At the time, we believed we were in compliance, so it is not surprising that we did not report that we weren’t in compliance”

He said that when the company realized there were potential issues, they raised them with the regulatory authority.

“Basically, it is concerning whenever there are charges laid against a company for environmental infractions,” said Terra Simieritsch, technical and policy analyst with the environmental think-tank Pembina Institute.

“The charges of misleading information are a particular concern, especially due to the fact the industry is largely self regulating.”

Suncor faces a fine of up to $500,000 on each of nine counts, which is a theoretical maximum of $4.5 million.

“The site was an area that had been cleared with the intention of building a tank farm,” said Bellows. “So, with the site and brush cleared, we needed to contain rain and snow melt water. Measures have been taken to put Suncor in compliance with the regulator.”

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