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CALGARY, Alberta, Nov 20 (Reuters) - The Alberta Energy Regulator on Thursday cleared oil sands operators of responsibility for the death of 196 waterfowl that landed on their toxic tailings ponds earlier this month, saying poor weather conditions forced the birds down.
The regulator said the operators' deterrent systems were all working normally on Nov. 4, when the birds landed on ponds at Canadian Natural Resources Ltd's Horizon project, Suncor Energy Inc's site, and at Syncrude Canada's Mildred Lake site.
"On each site, waterfowl deterrent systems were in place and functioning at the time of the incident," the regulator said in a news release.
"Unfortunately, the intense weather conditions on November 4, 2014 forced the waterfowl to land on the ponds in spite of the deterrents."
Syncrude, a consortium led by Canadian Oil Sands Ltd was fined C$3 million ($2.7 million) for the 2008 deaths of 1,600 ducks at a tailing pond at its northern Alberta project site. The death fueled international concern about the environmental costs of developing the oil sands. (1 US dollar = 1.1297 Canadian dollar) (Reporting by Scott Haggett. Editing by Andre Grenon)