Charges of installing pipeline in wildlife area stayed against Encana

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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MEDICINE HAT, Alta. - Federal wildlife charges against oil and natural gas giant EnCana Corp. have been stayed.
EnCana (TSC:ECA) was accused of installing 300 metres of pipeline in March 2005 through the National Wildlife Area along the southeast section of Canadian Forces Base Suffield in southern Alberta.
The area has been recognized for more than three decades as a sensitive habitat with 20 species at risk and has been out of bounds to all military training and research since 1971.
Larry Reynolds, senior counsel for Public Prosecution Service Canada, confirmed Monday the Crown stayed the charges against EnCana on Dec. 18.
He declined to provide an explanation.
The charge of conducting industrial activity in a national wildlife area carries a maximum fine of $250,000.
EnCana spokesman Alan Boras said in a telephone interview Monday the pipeline was inadvertently installed in the wildlife area while trying to avoid a wetland.
"The crew that was working there was attempting to avoid a wetland to minimize impact and inadvertently did some work that happened to be within the (NWA) boundaries," he said.
"We were advised the Crown concluded that it would not achieve a conviction in this case and decided not to proceed with the prosecution."
Sandra Foss, past-president of the Federation of Alberta Naturalists, described the Suffield wildlife area as one of the largest, most sensitive areas of its kind in the country.
"It's exceptionally important. It represents 10 per cent of the (native) grasslands left in North America. It's absolutely critical."
Foss's organization is one of several environmental groups that form the Suffield Coalition. Its goal is to bring attention to the wildlife area and the activities surrounding it.
She said EnCana's environmental track record at the base and within the area has been worrying.
"They have thumbed their nose at any of rules and do what they please with a total disregard for the landscape, species or anything else," Foss said.
"I think that they figured because they are behind military gates, they are out of sight, out of mind."
The military ceased training in the 468-square kilometre area in 1971 in recognition of the sensitive nature of the 1,100 plants and animals in the area, 20 of which are listed as species at risk.
A permit system for industrial activity within the national wildlife area was established in May 2005.
A year ago, a government review panel denied EnCana's application to drill for natural gas in the Suffield wildlife area because it lacked complete environmental information.

Organizations: EnCana Corp., Canadian Forces Base Suffield, Public Prosecution Service Canada Federation of Alberta Naturalists Suffield Coalition

Geographic location: National Wildlife Area, MEDICINE HAT, Southern Alberta Suffield North America

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