Greenpeace says charges come one day after scathing report on Rainbow pipeline spill
One day after receiving an advance copy of a scathing Greenpeace report, the Alberta government laid charges against Plains Midstream Canada in connection with a 2011 Rainbow pipeline spill.
The charges come two years after the April 28, 2011 spill, which released 28,000 barrels of crude oil near the hamlet of Little Buffalo in the Peace River region of Alberta.
“We just published a scathing report on the Rainbow spill showing that the Alberta government was much more interested in public relations than actually protecting the environment or surrounding communities,” said Mike Hudema, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada.
“Suddenly we now have charges two years after the fact.”
The 16-page report, which uses internal government documents Greenpeace obtained under freedom of information requests, criticizes the government for failing to lay charges against Plains Midstream for the Rainbow pipeline spill.
Hudema said the the report was supposed to be released to the public on Monday.
The Alberta government and journalists were given an advanced copy on Thursday.
Twenty four hours after receiving the report, the Alberta government announced in a press release Plains Midstream has been charged with three counts under environmental protection legislation for the 2011 Rainbow pipeline spill.
Alberta government says report is unrelated to timing of charges
Jessica Potter, a spokeswoman for Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, told Beacon News the timing of the charges is not related to the Greenpeace report.
“Our department undertook a lengthy investigation to ensure enforcement steps were appropriate,” said Potter.
“We have a compliance program that ensures we do a comprehensive investigation for all incidents. In this case, an investigation was initiated at the time of the incident and we have gone through the necessary steps to ensure we have all the facts.
“The investigation came to the consculsion we would be pressing charges.”
Potter added the charges were filed before the two-year limitation period expired.
“It is in no way related to the Greenpeace report,” Potter repeated.
Report alleges energy regulator concerned more with protecting oil industry than environment
The report alleges Alberta’s energy regulator, the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), rejected a request from their investigation team for a public inquiry into the Rainbow pipeline spill.
Instead, the energy regulator recommended Plains Midstream conduct a communications audit.
“This mild slap on the wrist delivers a key message: The ERCB is more concerned with public relations than with performance,” writes Keith Stewart, report author and professor of energy policy and the environment at York University.
Stewart wrote the regulator and provincial government “appear to be more focused on protecting the oil industry’s reputation than on protecting the environment or affected communities.”
The report alleges that despite “numerous problems” identified in the initial ERCB incident report of the Rainbow pipeline spill, neither the regulator nor the provincial government imposed a penalty on the company.
The report also alleges the government relied on the company to take the water samples, and some of the samples went missing, which may have affected the investigation.
The charges in relation to the Rainbow pipeline spill include failing to take reasonable measures to repair the leak problem and not taking all steps possible to clean up the oil.
A maximum fine of $500,000 accompanies each charge.