CALGARY — An Alberta court fined oilsands giant Suncor Energy Inc. (TSX:SU) on Thursday for breaking environmental laws in two separate incidents, but an environmental group said the punishment doesn’t go far enough.
A provincial court fined Suncor $675,000 for failing to install pollution control equipment at its Firebag oilsands facility near Fort McMurray, Alberta Environment said in a statement.
That problem led to poisonous hydrogen sulphide gas and other compounds being released into the atmosphere, however no environmental or public health impacts were found as a result of the violation.
In another incident, Suncor and its work camp operator were fined a combined $400,000 over charges involving the dumping of sewage into the Athabasca River.
Suncor was cited for failing to properly supervise Compass Group, the camp operator.
A subcontractor, R&D McCabe, also pleaded guilty to falsifying information about the disposal of wastewater and will face a sentencing hearing on May 22.
Suncor’s portion of the fine is $175,000. Compass Group is to pay $225,000 for failing to report violations by R&D McCabe.
“Suncor is the owner of that facility and as far as we’re concerned the buck definitely stops with us,” Suncor spokeswoman Shawn Davis said.
However Simon Dyer, director of oilsands for the environmental think-tank Pembina Institute, said the fines are not a strong enough deterrent for deep-pocketed oilpatch companies.
“If you look at as a percentage 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 needs to be.”