Saturday, January 26, 2013
EnviroCan Coddles Big Fossil
Harper's EnviroCan doesn't have the stomach to prosecute oil, gas and pipeline companies for their wanton mishaps. It prefers, instead, to speak sternly to them or at least send them letters.
The warnings include letters to oilsands producer Devon Canada, and to Gibson Energy – a midstream company that manages pipelines and other related infrastructure – alleging that two separate oil spills at their respective facilities in 2010 were in violation of the federal Fisheries Act.
The violations are punishable by fines of up to $1 million or imprisonment of up to three years, said the warning letters.
Both companies said they had addressed the concerns raised in the letters, but Environment Canada also called out several other companies in writing, for failures to implement and test emergency plans and failures to properly report and identify the storage or management of regulated petroleum products.
“Our goal isn’t to prosecute for the sake of prosecuting (or) make the numbers look good in that sense,” said Heather McCready, a manager from the enforcement branch of Environment Canada.
“Our goal is to bring people into compliance as quickly as possible.
“It’s about protecting the environment. It’s not about racking up points. So a warning letter can be a very effective tool to do that.”
But Parliament’s environment watchdog, Scott Vaughan, disputed those claims in his last investigation of enforcement actions. His analysis found that the department didn’t know which enforcement measures were most effective since it wasn’t adequately tracking cases or following up with companies about violations.
Department officials initially declined to answer questions about the nature of its warning letters in July 2012, prompting Postmedia News to make multiple requests for the records related to the oil and gas industry using federal access to information legislation.
At that time, the department was pursuing millions of dollars in budget cuts, including funding cuts for scientists who helped enforcement officers measure pollution and test for compliance with existing laws and regulations.
The Harper government also replaced the country’s main environmental protection law last summer with legislation that reduced federal oversight in assessing industrial development, while strengthening provisions to crack down on companies that didn’t respect conditions imposed on projects by the government.