Statoil faces improper water withdrawal charges
Alberta Environment has charged an international oil and gas company operating near Fort McMurray for improper water withdrawals dating back three years.
Jessica Potter, spokeswoman for the department, said Statoil Canada Ltd. faces 19 charges for incidents between 2008 and 2009, in which water was allegedly improperly diverted from various water bodies for use in plant operations at its in situ facility near Conklin, 350 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.
Potter said the government discovered the problem in 2008 and laid charges this week.
"It takes a fair amount of time to do a thorough and proper investigation," Potter said. "You want to make sure you present the best case as possible."
The court document, filed Feb. 7, suggests water was diverted from various lakes, rivers and streams, including Argo Lake and May River. At one point, the company allegedly diverted more than 10,000 cubic metres of water. At another time, no gauge was inserted to make sure water levels didn't dip more than five centimetres. Daily estimates of how much water was being hauled by truckloads also weren't done, the document alleges.
An in situ plant uses water which it heats and injects into the ground as steam to heat and release the bitumen.
The company's first court appearance is set for April 6 in Edmonton.
Peter Symons, director of communications for Statoil, said the company takes the charges seriously and has also launched an internal investigation.
"We continue to take the necessary steps raised by Alberta Environment," Symons said from Calgary.
He couldn't speak about the details of the alleged infractions since they are now before the court. "We've been co-operating with Alberta Environment to date and will continue to do so. We can assure Albertans we are going to remain compliant."
NDP Leader Brian Mason suggested government inspections at such sites are minimal.
"We think that these things are not caught and when they are caught, they're not caught soon enough," Mason said. "If it takes them so long to put together an investigation, it's simply more evidence that they have a lack of resources dedicated to this, which would confirm the NDP's view that these investigations are not a high priority for the government.
"Keeping the oilsands operating in an environmentally sustainable way has never been this government's priority."
Mike Hudema of Greenpeace questioned the delay in charges and wondered how many other incidents of similar nature are being investigated without the public's knowledge.
The charges against Statoil include contravening parts of its water licence and provide false or misleading information regarding water withdrawals at its northern Alberta facility.
"When we see charges laid against a company that is purported to be -- to investors and to the general public and to people back in Norway (where the company is based) -- as being one of the greenest companies operating in the tar sands, it just shows how dirty and toxic the tar sands industry really is," Hudema said.
"We also have huge concerns over the fact that the government continues to rely on a system where companies are allowed to police and monitor themselves."Read more: http://www.edmontonjournal.com/business/Statoil+faces+improper+water+withdrawal+charges/4262845/story.html#ixzz1DgnI9Lzh