EnCana’s Ninth Appearance in Court on Wildlife Act Charges

Southern Alberta Group for the EnvironmentFederation of Alberta NaturalistsAlberta Wilderness AssociationNature CanadaGrasslands Naturalists

Calgary (September 18, 2008) – With the hearing into EnCana’s application to drill 1,275 wells in the Suffield National Wildlife Area less than three weeks away, another related scenario continues to unfold. On September 18, EnCana appears in Medicine Hat Court for the ninth time on charges related to installing a section of pipeline in the National Wildlife Area without a permit. EnCana has pled not guilty, and during the September 18 appearance, a trial date is to be set.

The recent deaths of another 500 oil-soaked birds, this time in the grasslands of CFB Suffield, have also provided some critical context for EnCana’s application. After the oil leak, discovered last week, Energy Resources Conservation Board spokesperson Davis Sheremata pointed out that it is during drilling and completion phases that most such “incidents” happen.

“This is exactly what we are concerned about,” says Sandra Foss, past-president of the Federation of Alberta Naturalists (FAN). “In an area where the density of species at risk of extinction is one of the highest in Canada, it’s inconceivable that industry and government would even entertain the possibility of risking an accident such as this in a National Wildlife Area.” FAN is part of the Suffield Coalition, a coalition of six groups that will be intervening at the hearing into EnCana’s application, which begins in Calgary on October 6

Meanwhile, the day after the news of Harvest Energy’s leaking well and the resultant bird deaths became public, EnCana announced the donation of $1 million to conserve and restore wetlands in Alberta and B.C. “This is interesting timing,” says Cliff Wallis, vice-president of Alberta Wilderness Association, one of the Suffield Coalition members. “Almost exactly three years ago, EnCana drilled a well in a wetland on CFB Suffield, violating federal policy. It took 11 months, numerous formal and verbal requests from the Base, and a Department of National Defense ultimatum before EnCana removed the well on the eve of DND’s deadline. That’s another side of the story of EnCana and wetlands.”

EnCana’s history of poor environmental stewardship on the Base, last week’s oily disaster, EnCana’s ongoing court case, and the upcoming high-profile hearing appear to be converging toward a denouement that could set a precedent for federally protected areas across the country.

For more information:

Cliff Wallis, Alberta Wilderness Association: 403-607-1970
Sandra Foss, President, Federation of Alberta Naturalists: 403-932-2947, [email protected],