Lawsuit goes ahead against Plains Midstream

A $75-million class action lawsuit against Plains Midstream for its role in a 2012 oil spill on the Red Deer River is heading to court finally.

A $75-million class action lawsuit against Plains Midstream for its role in a 2012 oil spill on the Red Deer River is heading to court finally.

Certification of the class action lawsuit had been scheduled but had to be put on hold while awaiting the results of the province’s probe of the spill.

Class action lawsuits must be certified in the courts, which decide if there is enough merit to the action to proceed.

The province’s report places blame squarely on Plains Midstream Canada for numerous failures leading to the pipeline break that released an estimated 462,000 litres of crude oil on June 7, 2012.

“Our investigation has shown that it was very clearly the company’s failure to do what they were supposed to do under the regulatory system in Alberta,” said Darin Barter, a spokesman for the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) when the report was released.

The AER says the Calgary-based company did not inspect the pipeline annually or even follow its own pipeline integrity management program.

“We think it helps in part,” said class action lawyer Tony Merchant, of the report’s findings. His Regina-based Merchant Law Group filed the legal action in June 2012.

“Nothing has changed as a result of this study. The study doesn’t change the loss and the study doesn’t change the impact.

“What it does is put some credence to that position of wrongdoing by (Plains Midstream).”

Merchant will now restart the certification process and hopes the court time is available by September or October.

Certification is typically a four- to five-day court process and will examine the strength of the case, he said.

“Many cases, when certified, are settled because the defendants then recognize that there is substance then they look at trying to consider compensation,” he said.

In the Sundre case, the latest spill was the second for Plains Midstream in the same area.

“We would be hopeful, if certified, that then we would might be able to get compensation for people in the area,” he said.

Landowners in the Gleniffer Lake area make up most of those included in the class action.

The reservoir, which features a number of resorts, which include seasonal and year-round residents, was closed to recreation for many weeks following the spill to allow cleanup.

“For people in that community while there was cleanup they still suffered property value loss and I don’t think there’s been any recovery. The whole area as a vacation area has been put under stress, I guess is a complimentary way to think about it.”

Plains Midstream did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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