SemCAMS, ULC’s Kaybob Amalgamated Processing Plant plant (K-A), faces numerous charges under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA) following an 18 month investigation into a pipeline failure.
An estimated 850,000 litres (850 cubic meters) of produced water was released into a nearby creek, resulting in a total of 5 environmental charges.
“Almost one kilometre of the creek, and associated wetlands were impacted, including a substantial fish kill,” according to a joint statement issued by Alberta Environment and Water, and Environment Canada. “Other aquatic life and plants in the watercourse and wetland were also destroyed.”
The EPEA is the provincial regulator administered through Alberta Environment and Water. It sets out activities, conditions and expectations to support and promote the protection, enhancement and wise use of the environment. Their charges are:
- releasing or permitting the release into the environment of a substance that causes or may cause a significant adverse effect;
- failure to report the release to the proper authorities as soon as it occurred;
- failure to take all reasonable measures to repair, remedy and confine the effects of the substance; and
- failure to take all reasonable measures to remediate, manage, remove or otherwise dispose of the substance in such a manner as to prevent an adverse effect or further adverse effect.
Environment Canada also charged SemCAMS under the federal Fisheries Act as a result of the Aug 7-8, 2010 pipeline incident.
The company is expected to make its first appearance in provincial court on Monday, April 23 in Fox Creek.
In May, 2009, SemCAMS was issued an enforcement order for failing to maintain ambient air quality monitoring equipment at Kaybob South Beaverhill Lake Unit Number 3 plant (K-3). The plant, according to Alberta Environment, failed to comply with Alberta’s Air Monitoring Directive on a number of occasions. A third party review and audit was ordered and conducted to ensure compliance.
Implications for Fox Creek
On Valentines Day, the provincial government announced it’s taken immediate action to boost environmental monitoring and allocated 11 million in new funding to protect air, land, water and biodiversity.
Alberta’s reputation is at stake. All initial reports indicate that the oil sands region will receive the most attention, although the program is intended to be a province-wide “commitment to increased openness and transparency.”
Beginning this field season, the enhanced provincial system will improve Alberta’s ability to detect and manage “the cumulative effects of increased development and ensure resources are managed responsibly,” according to the report.
Facility and compliance inspections, as well as compulsory reporting, and tougher regulation will affect operations at the aging infrastructure, in the Fox Creek area.
With the international spotlight on the oil sands, the project’s magnitude will claim most of the province’s new resources, and by extension, may render smaller pockets of oil and gas activity to a little less scrutiny therefore, remaining comparatively under-reported, good or bad.
This will be a challenging year for Alberta’s oil patch, no matter how big, or small, new or old the operation, as it strives to defend, gain support and recognition for its environmental integrity.
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