Syncrude apologizes for oil-sands bird kills

Syncrude Canada Ltd. has offered a “sincere apology” following the death of hundreds of birds at the company’s Athabasca Oil Sands operation.

“Syncrude offers a heartfelt and sincere apology for the incident on April 28th that caused hundreds of migratory birds to die after they landed on a tailings pond at our oil sands operation,” Syncrude president and CEO Tom Katinas wrote in the May 2 apology, posted on the company’s Web site.

On May 1, the Chipewyan Prairie First Nation sent out a press release decrying what it calls the government’s “negligence in protecting the environment and wildlife” in the Alberta oil sands.

“The governments wish us to believe that they are monitoring environmental impacts towards ensuring the protection of our environment, but we have repeatedly witnessed their neglect of their duties,” Chief Vern Janvier said in the release. “We demand that the First Nation governments and citizens of the area have an independent role in monitoring the activities of developers and enforcing the laws and our sacred Treaty.”

Katinas wrote that Syncrude is investigating “the factors that led to this regrettable occurrence”, adding that they are “cooperating fully with government authorities as they conduct their own reviews”.

“We understand you expect the best from Syncrude in environmental management and the protection of wildlife,” Katinas said. “It’s a value that we share, and we are committed to making the necessary changes to our long-established practices to help ensure a sad event like this never happens again. This is a promise we make to you and all those who depend on our crude oil product to fuel their daily lives.”

In the First Nation’s release, Chipewyan Prairie elder David Janvier called for a “moratorium to any more tar sands developments until new laws and regulations are put in place to protect the environment and all living things”.

Chief Janvier is calling for a federal inquiry on how to protect migratory birds, fisheries, and species at risk, such as caribou.

“The Federal Government has legal and constitutional obligations under our treaty and international agreements to protect our rights and wildlife,” the chief said. Syncrude is a joint venture of Canadian Oil Sands Ltd., Conoco-Phillips Oil Sand Partnership II, Imperial Oil Resources, Mocal Energy Ltd., Murphy Oil Company Ltd., Nexen Oil Sands Partnership, and Petro-Canada Oil and Gas.