Suncor fine too small

To the Pembina Institute, for lashing out against a fine imposed against the oilsands giant Suncor Energy and its work-camp operator, Compass Group, for breaking environmental laws in two incidents.


To the Pembina Institute, for lashing out against a fine imposed against the oilsands giant Suncor Energy and its work-camp operator, Compass Group, for breaking environmental laws in two incidents.

In total, a provincial court in Calgary, where guilty pleas were entered, slapped fines against the pair in excess of $1 million. But that’s peanuts compared with Suncor’s earnings last year of $2.1 billion, scoffed Simon Dyer, director of oilsands for the think-tank Pembina Institute.

He describe the fines as a mere slap on the wrist.

At the same hearing, subcontractor R&D McCabe pleaded guilty to falsifying information about the disposal of wastewater. The company will be sentenced on May 22.

Suncor was fined $675,000 for failing to install pollution control equipment at its Firebag oilsands facility near Fort McMurray. That led to deadly hydrogen sulphide gas and other compounds being released into the atmosphere.

In the second incident, Suncor and its work-camp operator were fined a combined $400,000 over charges involving the dumping of sewage into the Athabasca River.

Dyer argued the fines are not a strong enough deterrent for deep-pocketed oilpatch companies.

“If you look at it as a per cent of revenues for these companies, they’re not much more than a slap on the wrist,” he said. “These fines are so low, it’s the cost of doing business for companies. You can see why the attention to environmental issues isn’t what it used to be.”

Isn’t that the truth.


To the British Columbia government, for becoming the first province to legally require the addition of a bittering agent in antifreeze to protect children and pets from accidental poisoning.

The infamous “antifreeze cocktail” has been served up in rural areas for years to control dog and cat problems. It’s a sweet-tasting drink that animals lap up without hesitation, then die.

The problem is, antifreeze is also sweet-tasting to children.

When the cocktail is introduced into an urban setting, which it has been by irate neighbours fed up with dogs and cats doing their business on their properties, children can also help themselves to the deadly liquid.

B.C. Environment Minister Barry Penner said toxic ethylene glycol-based antifreeze has been linked to a number of poisonings of children and animals.

Starting next January, antifreeze in B.C. must contain a bitter-tasting compound called denatonium benzoate.

Also know as Bitrex or Aversion, the substance has been used as a nail-biting remedy for humans and in anti-chewing products for animals.

The legislation also drives home the point that people must be very careful when storing toxic chemicals.

While some antifreeze has been poured in a saucer intentionally, there are incidents where curious children and pets find a container within reach and help themselves.

Like any other poison, antifreeze must be stored appropriately.


This is an odd one. To the woman in Berlin who divorced her husband this week because she was fed up with his obsession to keep the house clean.

There are probably countless of women out there who could only dream of their hubbies down on their knees scrubbing the kitchen floor and the bathroom floor, washing toilets, walls and windows to a sparkling shine. Who would need Mr. Clean?

But the Berlin woman, divorce court heard, had endured 15 years of marriage, putting up with her husband’s penchant for doing household chores, tidying up and rearranging the furniture constantly. She ran out of patience when he knocked down and rebuilt a wall when it got dirty.

A dart could be launched at the woman over her grounds for divorce. Yet, a bouquet could be throw in her direction for finally abandoning a squeaky-clean relationship that was testing her sanity.

“I’d never had anyone seek a divorce for this,” conceded divorce court judge Christian Kropp.

Rick Zemanek is an Advocate editor.

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