Posts

Record $2.7 million fine for company causing oil spill in B.C.

Kirby Offshore Marine Operating LLC was recently sentenced in the Provincial Court of British Columbia, in Bella Bella, after pleading guilty to three charges of violating federal legislation, in connection with an October 13, 2016, spill from the vessel Nathan E. Stewart into Seaforth Channel near Bella Bella, British Columbia.

The company was sentenced to pay the following penalties:

  • $2.7 million for the offence of depositing a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish, in violation of the Fisheries Act;
  • $200,000 for the offence of depositing a substance harmful to migratory birds, in violation of the Migratory Birds Convention Act1994; and
  • $5,000 for the offence of failing to comply with the pilotage requirements under the Pilotage Act.

The $2.7 million penalty imposed under the Fisheries Act is the largest fine for the deposit of a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish from a single spill. This penalty will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund and is recommended to be used toward the conservation of fish and fish habitat in the Central Coast region of British Columbia. The $200,000 penalty for the offence under the Migratory Birds Convention Act1994 will also be directed to the Fund.

On October 13, 2016, the tug boat Nathan E. Stewart ran aground at Edge Reef near Bella Bella, British Columbia, resulting in the release of approximately 107,552 litres (28,412 gallons) of diesel fuel and 2,240 litres (591 gallons) of lubricants. Both substances are deleterious to fish and migratory birds. Kirby Offshore Marine Operating LLC owned the Nathan E. Stewart.

The articulated tug-barge combo was on its way back to Vancouver from Alaska at the time of the incident. The fuel barge was empty, but the tug quickly began leaking diesel into the water. Seven crew members were on board, but no one was injured.

The tug and barge combo Nathan E. Stewart  (Photo Credit:  NORMAN FOX / FOR PNG )

Kirby Offshore Marine is the largest United States operator of coastal tank barges and towing vessels participating in the regional distribution of refined petroleum products, black oil, and petrochemicals. Kirby’s coastal fleet operates along the U.S. coastal network and calls on ports along the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts, as well as ports in Alaska, Hawaii and on the Great Lakes.

As a result of the federal conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.

Husky Oil fined $2.7 million for oil spill into the North Saskatchewan River

Husky Oil Operations Limited recently pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Canadian Fisheries Act and one count of violating the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 in a Saskatchewan court.

The company was ordered to pay a fine of $2.5 million for violating the Fisheries Act and a fine of $200,000 for violating the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994. The fines will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund and will be used to support projects within the North Saskatchewan and/or Saskatchewan River and their associated watersheds related to the conservation and protection of fish and migratory birds.  

The charges related to an incident that occurred between July 20 and 21, 2016, when an estimated 225,000 litres of blended heavy crude oil leaked from a Husky Oil Operations Limited pipeline. Approximately 90,000 litres of the oil entered the North Saskatchewan River near Maidstone, Saskatchewan. The oil was found to be deleterious, or harmful, to fish and migratory birds.   

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s National Environmental Emergencies Centre (NEEC) responded to the July 2016 spill. Environmental emergency officers were onsite from July 22, 2016 until early October 2016 to provide regulatory oversight and guide efforts to protect the environment. A year after the spill, in 2017, and once again in 2018, NEEC’s Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Team returned to the North Saskatchewan River to assess the water and shorelines following the spring ice breakup.

Clean-up Activities of the North Saskatchewan River

The spill resulted in a number of communities having to stop taking water from the North Saskatchewan River for drinking water purposes. The cities had to shut off their intakes and find alternate water sources after the oil plume from a Husky Energy pipeline spill moved downstream. The cities of North Battleford, Prince Albert, and Melfort were ordered by Saskatchewan’s Water Security Agency to stop taking water from the river.

In addition to pleading guilty to offences under federal legislation, Husky Oil Operations Limited has pleaded guilty to one count under the provincial Environmental Management and Protection Act, 2010

UBC fined $1.2 million for Release of Ammonia-laden Water

The University of British Columbia and CIMCO Refrigeration were recently sentenced for offences committed in violation of the Canadian Fisheries Act, related to a 2014 ammonia-laden water release that ended up in a tributary of the Fraser River.

CIMCO Refrigeration was fined $800,000 after pleading guilty to depositing or permitting the deposit of a deleterious substance into an area that may enter water frequented by fish.

The University of British Columbia was fined $1.2 million after being found guilty of the several offences including the depositing or permitting the deposit of a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish (Booming Ground Creek) and failing to report the incident in a timely manner.

Screenshot courtesy of Ministry of Justice.

In addition to the fine, the University was also ordered to conduct five years of electronic monitoring of storm-water quality at the outfall where the release occurred.

The University has filed an appeal against these convictions.

Background on the Incident

On September 12, 2014, Environment and Climate Change Canada was contacted regarding an ammonia odour at an outfall ditch connected to Booming Ground Creek in Pacific Spirit Regional Park. The source of ammonia was identified as coming from a refrigeration plant at Thunderbird Arena at the University of British Columbia.

CIMCO Refrigeration and the University were completing repairs of the refrigeration system and used a negative pressure device, known as a Venturi, to purge residual ammonia vapours from the system. The mixture of water and ammonia was then discharged into a storm drain at the arena, which flowed to the outfall, through a ditch, and into Booming Ground Creek, which is a tributary of the Fraser River.

Officers and park rangers found approximately 70 dead fish in Booming Ground Creek in the two days following the discharge. The level of ammonia deposited in the water in the storm drain and ditch was analyzed and found to be harmful to fish.

As a result of this conviction, both organizations’ names will be added to the Environmental Offender’s Registry.

Solvent Spill from Transport Truck results in $100,000 fine

Penner International Inc., headquartered in Manitoba, was recently convicted on one charge on the Ontario Environmental Protection Act as a result of a spill of solvent from one its transport trucks in 2017. The company was fined $100,000 plus a victim surcharge of $25,000.

The driver of the vehicle involved in the solvent spill was also personally charged and convicted. He was fined $35,000 plus a victim surcharge of $8,750. He was given 12 months to pay the fine.

In spill occurred on July 20, 2017 in the Town of Gwillimbury, approximately a 1-hour drive of Toronto. A Penner tractor-trailer driven a by independent contractor was heading north on Highway 400 when it rear-ended a pick-up truck that swerved in front of it, ultimately leading to a spill of solvent VORTEX WPM onto the highway.

The VORTEX PM had been picked up by the driver earlier in the day from a Mississauga, Ontario distribution company and loaded onto the trailer. The load consisted of twelve stainless steel 1500-kilogram. The distribution company did not secure them to the trailer.  The driver did not inquire as to whether the totes were secured or not before he closed the doors to the trailer and drove off.

During transport and at the time of the rear-ending incident, as the totes were not properly secured, they shifted and the valves on two of the totes were knocked open. Solvent spilled from the trailer onto the highway and some also ran down gradient onto the soil of an adjacent construction site.

A one-kilometre evacuation zone was also established around the spill site. The closure remained in force for 10.5 hours, and the construction site’s operations were affected for a few days.

Hundreds of motorists were trapped on Highway 400, where the spill occurred, for up to five hours before they could be re-routed to ancillary roads.

VORTEX WPM is an organic solvent that is flammable. To clean up a large spill of VORTEC WPM, the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for VORTEX WPM states: “Eliminate all ignition sources. Persons not wearing protective equipment should be excluded from area of spill until clean up has been completed. Stop spill at source. Prevent from entering drains, sewers, streams, etc. If runoff occurs, notify authorities as required. Pump or vacuum transfer spilled product to clean containers for recovery. Transfer contaminated absorbent, soil and other materials to containers for disposal.”

Penner International Ltd. was founded in 1923 and specialized in truckload dry van, international, and Canadian transport.

United States: When Is Property Damage From A Release “Expected Or Intended”? Only After The Owner Learns Of The Spill And Ignores It

Written by Seth JaffeFoley Hoag LLP

Any good trial lawyer will tell you that the law is about telling stories.

Once upon a time, Timothy and Stacy Creamer bought a house.  Only after they closed did they realize that some strategically placed rugs were hiding the evidence that, “up from the ground come a bubblin’ crude.”

Unlike Jed Clampett, rather than finding themselves millionaires, the Creamers found themselves with a million dollar liability – literally.

This being a law story, of course the sellers were bankrupt.  The Creamers thus pursued the sellers’ insurer.  The case ended up in the Appeals Court, which held that the Creamers could pursue their claims under the policy.

The insurer, Arbella, made three arguments in support of its summary judgment motion.  The Court rejected them all.  In order, the Court held that:

  1. The property damage was caused by an occurrence.  Arbella argued that the damage was caused by the sellers’ fraud, not by the original release of oil.  However, as the Court pointed out, the Creamers’ had claims based on Chapter 21E, the Commonwealth’s superfund law.  Since Chapter 21E is a strict liability statute, the Creamers’ damages were caused by the release, not by the sellers’ fraud.  (But see number 3, below!)
  2. The loss occurred during the policy period.  Following precedent, the Court concluded that, so long as the property damage occurred during the policy period, it did not matter that the harm to the claimant did not occur until later.
  3. At least some of the damage was not “expected or intended.”  This is the most significant part of the case.  While preserving Creamers’ claims, the Court split the baby on this one.  It held that the original release was not expected or intended, but that, once the sellers discovered the spill without doing anything about it, any further damage was “expected” by the seller.  The Court thus remanded for a determination by the Superior Court how much of the total property damage was “expected.”

The Creamers will thus get their day in court, but, depending on when the sellers learned of the contamination, their recovery could be significantly limited.  They certainly will not get enough to move to Beverly Hills.  No swimming pools or movie stars for the Creamers.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

About the Author

Seth Jaffe is recognized by Chambers USA, The Best Lawyers in America and Massachusetts Super Lawyers as a leading practitioner in environmental compliance and related litigation. He is one of the authors of the Law and the Environment Blog, www.lawandenvironment.com, which provides real-world perspectives on current developments in environmental law and regulation. Seth is a past President of the American College of Environmental Lawyers.

Seth works on a wide range of environmental law issues, representing clients in the permitting/licensing of new facilities and offering ongoing guidance on permitting and enforcement related matters under federal and state Clean Air Acts, Clean Water Acts, RCRA, and TSCA. He also advises on wetlands and waterways regulation. Seth’s clients include electric generating facilities, companies in the printing and chemical industries, and education and health care institutions.

Are New United States Regulations Coming for Accidental Releases into Air?

By Louis A. Ferreira, Willa B. Perlmutter, and Guy J. Thompson, Stoel Rives LLP

On February 4, 2019, a federal court ruled that the U.S. Chemical and Safety Hazard Board must issue regulations within one year that set forth reporting requirements for accidental releases of hazardous substances into the ambient air. This requirement has been part of the Board’s statutory mandate since its inception in 1990 pursuant to Section 112(r)(6)(C)(iii) of the Clean Air Act (“CAA”). Nevertheless, the Board has never issued any such regulations.

Four non-profit groups and one individual filed a one-count complaint against the Board, seeking declaratory relief and an injunction to compel the Board to promulgate reporting requirements as required by the CAA. Plaintiffs claimed that the Board had violated the Administrative Procedure Act by not issuing any regulations. Plaintiffs further asserted the lack of reporting requirements have impaired their respective abilities to collect information that would help prevent future releases and the harm caused from such releases.

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia agreed with the plaintiffs and ruled that the Board must issue regulations within one year. In reaching its decision, the Court rejected the Board’s defenses that the delay in promulgating regulations was reasonable given the Board’s limited resources, small staff size, and other required functions. “[I]f that is the case,” the Court said, “the solution to its resource constraints is not to ignore a congressional directive[,] [i]t is to return to Congress and ask for relief from the statutory requirement.” The case is Air Alliance Houston, et al. v. U.S. Chem. & Safety Hazard Investigation Bd., D.D.C., No. 17-cv-02608, February 4, 2019.

The Court’s decision appears to follow a similar one issued in August 2018 in which some of the same plaintiffs brought a complaint against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In that case, the plaintiffs petitioned the D.C. Court of Appeals for review of the EPA’s decision to delay for 20 months the effective date of a rule designed to promote accident safety and enhance the emergency response requirements for chemical releases. The Court rejected all of EPA’s defenses justifying the delay in a strongly-worded opinion that held the agency strictly to the letter of the CAA. That case is Air Alliance Houston, et al. v. EPA, 906 F.3d 1049 (D.C. Cir. 2018).

The same directness is evident in this recent decision.

Ultimately, the practical effect of the ruling is not clear. There are already laws in place that require companies to report accidental releases to state and federal authorities. It is possible the Board will promulgate regulations that align with its current practice of deferring reporting requirements to other agencies. If the Board took that approach, there likely would not be a noticeable difference in reporting requirements from the current practice.

On the other hand, the two recent decisions discussed above suggest that a trend may be forming in which the courts are pushing back when the government steps off its clear statutory path.


This article has been republished with the permission of the authors. The original post of this article can be found on the Stoel Rivers LLP website.

About the Authors

Lou Ferreira is a senior partner with more than 27 years of complex trial experience.  His practice focuses on commercial litigation, insurance coverage and environmental, safety & health issues.  A seasoned litigator, Lou has significant experience in high-stakes litigation including successfully defending a class action filed against a utility by residents of a town in Washington asserting that the utility was liable for flooding as a result of the operations of its upstream dams.  Lou  successfully defended a port in Washington from a $20 million lawsuit brought by developers alleging breach of contract to develop a large mixed-use waterfront project on the Columbia River. 

Willa Perlmutter has more than 30 years of experience as a litigator, focusing for the last 20 on defending mine operators across all sectors of the industry in administrative enforcement proceedings brought by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) for alleged violations of the Mine Act.  In addition, she regularly counsels clients on a broad range of issues that affect their mining operations, from personnel policies and actions to compliance with a broad range of federal statutes. Willa regularly defends companies and individuals facing investigations and formal legal proceedings for alleged safety and health violations under both the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 and the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, whether those arise out of a catastrophic event, such as an accident, or in the course of a regular inspection by MSHA or Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). She has successfully defended a number of mining companies in whistleblower cases brought under the Mine Act.

Guy Thompson is a litigator and advisor on a wide-range of insurance matters. His practice focuses on insurance coverage litigation, including natural resources/environmental insurance coverage, and a wide variety of risk management issues. Guy helps policyholders obtain the recovery they deserve from their insurers and has helped recover millions of dollars from insurance companies for his clients. Guy is skilled at getting insurance carriers to cooperate in paying claims and often secures settlements with insurers without the need for litigation. Recently, he helped recover over $1.65 million from multiple insurance carriers for a Portland company that was required to perform environmental cleanup by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

U.S. Mining Sites – Legacy of Contamination Needs to be Addressed

https://www.thechronicleherald.ca/news/world/us-mining-sites-dump-50m-gallons-of-fouled-wastewater-daily-285939/

Rimini, Montana – Every day many millions of gallons of water loaded with arsenic, lead and other toxic metals flow from some of the most contaminated mining sites in the U.S. and into surrounding streams and ponds without being treated, The Associated Press has found.

That torrent is poisoning aquatic life and tainting water supplies in Montana, California, Colorado, Oklahoma and at least five other states.

The pollution is a legacy of how the mining industry was allowed to operate in the U.S. for more than a century. Companies that built mines for silver, lead, gold and other “hardrock” minerals could move on once they were no longer profitable, leaving behind tainted water that still leaks out of the mines or is cleaned up at taxpayer expense.

Using data from public records requests and independent researchers, the AP examined 43 mining sites under federal oversight, some containing dozens or even hundreds of individual mines.

The records show that at average flows, more than 50 million gallons of contaminated wastewater streams daily from the sites. In many cases, it runs untreated into nearby groundwater, rivers and ponds — a roughly 20-million-gallon daily dose of pollution that could fill more than 2,000 tanker trucks.

The remainder of the waste is captured or treated in a costly effort that will need to carry on indefinitely, for perhaps thousands of years, often with little hope for reimbursement.

The volumes vastly exceed the release from Colorado’s Gold King Mine disaster in 2015, when a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cleanup crew inadvertently triggered the release of 3 million gallons (11.4 million liters) of mustard-colored mine sludge, fouling rivers in three states.

At many mines, the pollution has continued decades after their enlistment in the federal Superfund cleanup program for the nation’s most hazardous sites, which faces sharp cuts under President Donald Trump.

Federal officials have raised fears that at least six of the sites examined by AP could have blowouts like the one at Gold King.


Mine waste mixes with runoff at the Gold King Mine. (Provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

Some sites feature massive piles or impoundments of mine waste known as tailings. A tailings dam collapse in Brazil last month killed at least 169 people and left 140 missing. A similar 2014 accident in British Columbia swept millions of cubic yards of contaminated mud into a nearby lake, resulting in one of Canada’s worst environmental disasters.

But even short of a calamitous accident, many mines pose the chronic problem of relentless pollution.

AP also found mining sites where untreated water harms the environment or threatens drinking water supplies in North and South Carolina, Vermont, Missouri and Oregon.

Tainted wells

In mountains outside the Montana capital of Helena, about 30 households can’t drink their tap water because groundwater was polluted by about 150 abandoned gold, lead and copper mines that operated from the 1870s until 1953.

The community of Rimini was added to the Superfund list in 1999. Contaminated soil in residents’ yards was replaced, and the EPA has provided bottled water for a decade. But polluted water still pours from the mines and into Upper Tenmile Creek.

“The fact that bottled water is provided is great,” said 30-year Rimini resident Catherine Maynard, a natural resources analyst for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Where it falls short is it’s not piped into our home. Water that’s piped into our home is still contaminated water. Washing dishes and bathing — that metal-laden water is still running through our pipes.”

Estimates of the number of such abandoned mine sites range from 161,000 in 12 western states to as many as 500,000 nationwide. At least 33,000 have degraded the environment, according to the Government Accountability Office, and thousands more are discovered every year.

Officials have yet to complete work including basic risk analyses on about 80 percent of abandoned mining sites on federal lands. Most are controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, which under Trump is seeking to consolidate mine cleanups with another program and cut their combined 2019 spending from $35 million to $13 million.

An abandoned mining site in Clear Creek County. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Perpetual pollution

Problems at some sites are intractable. Among them:

  • In eastern Oklahoma’s Tar Creek mining district, waterways are devoid of life and elevated lead levels persist in the blood of children despite a two-decade effort to clean up lead and zinc mines. More than $300 million has been committed since 1983, but only a small fraction of the impacted land has been reclaimed and contaminated water continues to flow.
  • At northern California’s Iron Mountain Mine, cleanup teams battle to contain highly acidic water that percolates through a former copper and zinc mine and drains into a Sacramento River tributary. The mine discharged six tons of toxic sludge daily before an EPA cleanup. Authorities now spend $5 million a year to remove poisonous sludge that had caused massive fish kills, and they expect to keep at it forever.
  • In Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, site of the Gold King blowout, some 400 abandoned or inactive mine sites contribute an estimated 15 million gallons (57 million liters) of acid mine drainage per day.

AP also found mining sites where untreated water harms the environment or threatens drinking water supplies in North and South Carolina, Vermont, Missouri and Oregon.

This landscape of polluted sites occurred under mining industry rules largely unchanged since the 1872 Mining Act.

State and federal laws in recent decades have held companies more accountable than in the past, but critics say huge loopholes all but ensure that some of today’s mines will foul waterways or require perpetual cleanups.

To avoid a catastrophe like Gold King, EPA officials now require advance approval for work on many mining sites. But they acknowledge they’re only dealing with a small portion of the problem.

“We have been trying to play a very careful game of prioritization,” said Dana Stalcup, deputy director of the Superfund program. “We know the Superfund program is not the answer to the hundreds of thousands of mines out there, but the mines we are working on we want to do them the best we can.”

The 43 sites examined by AP are mining locations for which officials and researchers have reliable estimates of polluted water releases. Officials said flow rates at the sites vary.

Average flows were unavailable for nine sites that only had high and low estimates of how much polluted water flowed out. For those sites, the AP used the lower estimates for its analysis.

Questions over who should pay

To date, the EPA has spent an estimated $4 billion on mining cleanups. Under Trump, the agency has identified a small number of Superfund sites for heightened attention after cleanup efforts stalled or dragged on for years. They include five mining sites examined by AP.

Former EPA assistant administrator Mathy Stanislaus said more money is needed to address mining pollution on a systematic basis, rather than jumping from one emergency response to another.

“The piecemeal approach is just not working,” said Stanislaus, who oversaw the Superfund program for almost eight years ending in 2017.

Democrats have sought unsuccessfully to create a special cleanup fund for old hardrock mine sites, with fees paid by the mining industry. Such a fund has been in place for coal mines since 1977, with more than $11 billion in fees collected and hundreds of sites reclaimed.

The mining industry has resisted doing the same for hardrock mines, and Republicans in Congress have blocked the Democratic proposals.

Montana Mining Association director Tammy Johnson acknowledged abandoned mines have left a legacy of pollution, but added that companies still in operation should not be forced to pay for those problems.

“Back in the day there really wasn’t a lot known about acid mine drainage,” she said. “I just don’t think that today’s companies bear the responsibility.”

In 2017, the EPA proposed requiring companies still operating mines to post cleanup bonds or offer other financial assurances so taxpayers don’t end up footing cleanup bills. The Trump administration halted the rule , but environmental groups are scheduled to appear in federal court next month in a lawsuit that seeks to revive it.

“When something gets on a Superfund site, that doesn’t mean it instantly and magically gets cleaned up,” said Earthjustice attorney Amanda Goodin. “Having money immediately available from a responsible party would be a game changer.”

Ontario: Trucking Company Fined $250,000 over hazmat incident

Titanium Trucking Services Inc., headquartered in Ontario, was recently convicted of one violation under the Ontario Environmental Protection Act and was fined $250,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $62,500 and was given 24 months to pay the fine. Luckily, no one was h The fine was the result of a hazmat incident in which a fluorosilicic acid spilled from a tanker truck into the natural environment, which caused adverse effects. No one can predict anything like this to happen, which is why it is important to always stay focused on the road no matter what vehicle you drive. Luckily no one was hurt in this collision. Saying this though, if you have been involved in a trucking accident and were not sure what to do next, getting some assistance from a personal injury lawyer springfield il could be the answer you need that can help you get your life back on track after this incident. There’s nothing wrong in asking for help.

Fluorosilicic acid is corrosive and causes burns. It decomposes when heated, with possible emanation of toxic hydrofluoric acid vapours. It is used in fluoridating water and in aluminum production. In the aquatic environment, an accidental spillage of fluorosilic acid would suddenly reduce pH level due to the product’s acidic properties.

At the time of the offence, Titanium Trucking Services Inc., which is located in Bolton (just northwest of Toronto) had a contract with a Burlington, Ontario area chemical company to provide drivers and vehicles on a dedicated basis for chemical product transportation.

In January 2017, the Burlington area chemical company placed an order for 81,000 kg of 37-42% fluorosilicic acid, which was required for pickup in Montreal for transport to Burlington. Fluorosilicic acid is a corrosive liquid, classified as a dangerous good.

On the date of the planned chemical pick-up, Environment Canada had issued weather advisories relating to a major winter storm and the public was instructed to consider postponing non-essential travel.

The chemical pick-up occurred as planned on March 14, 2017, and within four hours after leaving Montreal, the truck and the driver were involved in a multi-vehicle collision while traveling westbound on Highway 401. As a result of the collision 15 totes of fluorosilicic acid ejected through the front wall of the trailer and also came to rest in the roadside ditch.

Eight of the totes of acid that ejected from the trailer were punctured and spilled approximately 8,000 litres of acid into the ditch and onto the truck cab, dousing the driver, which eventually resulted in his death later in hospital.


March 14, 2017 incident on Highway 401 near Mallorytown. Several first responders were exposed and needed to be decontaminated. (XBR Traffic)

The acid discharge caused further adverse effects. a total of 13 First responders and another sixteen members of the public had to be decontaminated, the 401 highway was closed in both directions, and the OPP officer who initially attempted to extract the truck driver from the cab on scene experienced significant health effects. In addition, adverse impacts to the roadside soil ecosystem occurred.

Concern about Hazmat Incidents at Canada’s Proposed Spaceport

In a joint venture with several US firms, Halifax-based Maritime Launch Services (MLS) is building Canada’s first spaceport near Canso, Nova Scotia. At a total cost of $304 million—a figure that includes the cost of the first rocket launch and promotional expenses—the launch pad is slated to deliver commercial satellites to low Earth orbit aboard Ukrainian-built rockets on a due south trajectory, and at a cost of $60 million per launch.

Stephen Matier, left, president of Maritime Launch Services and Maksym Degtiarov, chief designer of the launch vehicle at the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau, talk with reporters at a meeting of the proposed Spaceport project team in Dartmouth, N.S. on December 11, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)

The Canso Spaceport Facility will be 20 hectares in size and is aimed at attracting firms that want to put satellites into orbit for commercial purposes.  The site will include a control centre, launch area and “horizontal integration facility,” where materials will be prepared for the launch and some propellants will be stored

The company would like to launch as many as eight rockets per year starting in 2022.

There are concerns about the spaceport from government experts.  Specifically, concerns related to environmental and health & safety issues.  Recently released documents released by the province detail numerous questions about the planned Canso Spaceport Facility.  Nova Scotia’s environment ministry will not approve the project unless their concerns are addressed.

The specific concerns of the N.S. Environment Ministry is how the company will address an explosion, crash or fuel leak.  According to the recently released government document, a spill would “destroy the impacted ecosystems with no chance of recovery within the next several hundred years.”

According to the Maritime Launch Services proposal, the rockets would use nitrogen tetroxide and unsymmetrical dimenthyl hydrazine, or UDH, for the second portion of their launch into the atmosphere.

A letter from the Canadian Defence Department says the military “does not have sufficient knowledge” to assess the impacts of an accidental discharge of the UDH on the land or surface water, but “suggests an assessment should be completed.”

A professor at the University of British Columbia has raised concerns about an “exceedingly toxic” rocket propellant that will be used at the Canso, N.S., operation. Michael Byers, a political science professor at UBC, said there is a danger associated with UDH — which he said is known in Russia as “the Devil’s Breath.”

Professor Byers stated “If something goes wrong on launch, you know, if the rocket were to tip over and explode, or if there were some kind of spill during transportation or assembly, you’d still have a serious health and environmental concern.”

Other government officials comment that there isn’t enough information in the proposal to assess potential dangers.

Chuck McKenna, a manager with the resource management unit of the provincial Environment Department, says detailed plans on how dangerous goods will be stored and handled weren’t provided.

He says this should include details on the potential effects of a chemical accident, prevention methods and emergency response procedures.

Johnny McPherson, an expert on air quality in the provincial Environment Department, says in his submission that the first stage propellants of a rocket can create “black carbon (soot)” that is “harmful if inhaled because of small particle size and damaging effects.”

The government comments were made in response to the environmental assessment of the project prepared by a consultant.

Nova Scotia Environment Minister Margaret Miller said last week the environmental assessment, submitted in July, didn’t contain sufficient information for her to make a decision on whether to approve the project.

Miller has given the company one year to provide additional information and studies.

The company’s president has said he’s confident the firm will finish the study in response to the concerns raised, and it is “optimistic” it can address the issues raised.

BP Reports Drilling Mud Spill Off Nova Scotia

BP Canada Energy Group recently reported an unauthorized discharge of drilling mud from the one of its drilling operations off the coast of Nova Scotia. The company estimated approximately 136,000 litres of drilling mud were discharged.

Anita Perry, BP Canada’s regional manager for Nova Scotia

Anita Perry, BP Canada’s regional manager for Nova Scotia, said a preliminary look at the spill has led the company to believe the cause is mechanical failure, though the investigation is not complete.
Perry said this is not a common occurrence, but the organization has response plans in place to manage spills. She said that before drilling was done in the area, a survey was conducted to assess environmental risks.
“Prior to drilling we did not identify any corals or any species there that could be damaged. So we do not believe there will be any damage,” said Perry.
The company suspended drilling during the investigation of the cause of the spill.

Risks to the Environment

Stacy O’Rourke, the director of communications at the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) said the synthetic-based mud is dense and sinks rapidly to the sea floor and the synthetic-based oil in the mud has low toxicity.

Ms. O’Rourke added that the effects of these types of spills are usually limited to the area immediately surrounding the well and are associated with the physical smothering of the seabed due to coverage by the mud.

She said the spill happened earlier in the day on Friday, and both the board and coast guard were notified. As of Friday evening, O’Rourke said no one on the board was at the spill.

The incident occurred approximately 330 kilometres from Halifax on a drill rig called the West Aquarius.

West Aquarius drill rig off the coast of Nova Scotia

CBC interviewed Tony Walker, a professor from the Dalhousie University School for Resource and Environmental Studies, about the potential impacts of the release of drilling mud on the environment. The Professor said that in looking at the project’s environmental assessment report, carried out by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA), the drilling mud spill may still be cause for concern.

Professor Walker said while a water-based mud is available for use in this type of drilling, the assessment outlines BP’s decision to use the synthetic, because it can better handle potential gas buildup and temperature regulation.

“Certainly, a synthetic-based mud does contain chemicals and potentially oils and diesel and that sort of thing,” he told the CBC. Walker said he reviewed data from the report based on a 3D modelled test and scaled down the impacts based on the June 22 incident.

“It could [result in] impacts of a kilometre or more from the drilling site. It could actually cover and smother [ocean floor dwelling] organisms; it could impact fish species which have larvae and eggs on the seabed.”

Professor Walker told the CBC that the CEAA report also references data from past drill sites, where little to no spilling was reported, in which surrounding marine habitats took up to five years to recover from drilling.

“The kind of consistent thread or theme I get from the report … is that if there are releases, it’ll be localized and it’ll have short term impacts,” Walker told the CBC.

“A kilometre is quite a big area, and [the report] talks about a recovery period of about five years for recolonization. I wouldn’t call five years entirely short-term.”

Nova Scotia’s energy minister says he’s concerned about spill of the drilling fluids off the province’s coast. However, he also added that he remains committed to growing the oil and gas industry.

Geoff MacLellan said he has “complete confidence” in the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board’s investigation into BP Canada’s leak of 136 cubic metres of synthetic drilling mud on Friday.

Approval to drill was granted in the Spring

BP Canada Energy Group was given approval in the spring of 2018 to drill of the coast of Nova Scotia. At the time, the Aspy D-11 exploration well was the first in BP Canada’s Scotian Basin Exploration Project. It was estimated that up to seven exploration wells could be drilled off the southeast coast of Nova Scotia over a three-year period.

At the time of the issuance of the approval, Anita Perry of BP Canada Energy stated in a phone interview with Canada’s National Observer, “We’re confident we addressed all issues and risks for a safe drilling program.”