Syncrude cannot duck from charges in death of 500 waterfowl

    Private prosecution launched against oil company after governments

    EDMONTON, Jan. 7 /CNW/ - One of Canada's largest oil companies is under
legal fire today for causing the death of several hundred ducks in a massive
toxic tailings pond in Alberta's Tar Sands last year. Ecojustice lawyer Barry
Robinson launched a private prosecution against Syncrude Canada on behalf of
concerned Alberta resident, Jeh Custer.
    Custer, a representative of Sierra Club Canada, is taking legal action to
ensure the oily death of hundreds of ducks in northern Alberta does not become
status quo in the Tar Sands. Last spring, approximately 500 ducks died after
landing on one of Syncrude's tailings ponds which cover more than 50 square
kilometres north of Fort McMurray.
    "Pollution from Tar Sands extraction is making the environment too toxic
for birds and people," said Custer. "The failure of the Alberta and federal
governments to enforce their own environmental laws means that ordinary
Canadians must act."
    This morning, Custer took the first steps toward launching a private
prosecution in provincial court against Syncrude under the Federal Migratory
Birds Convention Act, which prohibits the deposit of a harmful substance in an
area frequented by migratory birds. Launched by Ecojustice (formerly Sierra
Legal Defence Fund) on behalf of Custer, the prosecution is supported by
Sierra Club Canada and Forest Ethics.
    In the days following the disaster, both federal and provincial
government officials vowed to take action against Syncrude, threatening fines
of up to $1 million. But nine months later no charges have been laid.
    "The federal government has been ducking its responsibility to ensure the
environment and human health are protected in the Tar Sands region. If Canada
won't step up and enforce its own laws, we will," said Gillian McEachern of
Forest Ethics.
    Without prosecution, environmentalists fear more plant, animal, and human
life will be threatened by toxic tailings ponds produced through Tar Sands
    "It is important that environmental infractions are prosecuted in a
timely manner in order to protect both humans and wildlife from prohibited
activities," said Robinson. "We hope the private prosecution sends a message
that the needless death of 500 ducks is unacceptable."

For further information:

For further information: Barry Robinson, Ecojustice, Tel: (403)
830-2032,; Jeh Custer, Sierra Club Canada, Tel: (780)
660-5483,; Gillian McEachern, Forest Ethics, Tel: (416)

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