On July 13, 2018, Nexen Energy ULC was ordered to pay a total penalty of $290,000 in the Provincial Court of Alberta, after pleading guilty to one charge under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 (MBCA).
On July 15, 2015, a pipeline break occurred at the Nexen Energy Long Lake facility located near Anzac, Alberta, approximately 45 km southeast of Fort McMurray. According to the Statement of Facts, the Long Lake facility is an integrated oil sands steam-assisted gravity drainage and upgrading operation.
The break released approximately 5,000 m3 of emulsion product, consisting of bitumen, water and sand, into the environment, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). An ECCC investigation revealed that these substances are harmful to migratory birds and that the spill occurred in an area frequented by migratory birds.
“Landbirds, shorebirds and waterfowl species were observed in the impacted area. At least two dead ducks and a dead sandpiper were removed from the spill area. Analysis concluded that at least one duck (a mallard) died from exposure to the produced emulsion,” said ECCC spokesperson Mark Johnson in an email to ES&E Magazine.
Migratory game birds are protected under MBCA in which it is unlawful under Section 5.1(1) of the Act to deposit a substance that is harmful to migratory birds in waters or in an area frequented by migratory birds.
In addition to the penalties under the MBCA, Nexen Energy has pleaded guilty to charges under Alberta’s Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.
The penalty will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund where money will be used for protecting, conserving and restoring the environment in relation to migratory birds in northeastern Alberta, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada.