Duck deaths won't go unpunished: Canada minister

Mon May 5, 2008 2:42pm EDT
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By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - A top Canadian official sought to calm an international uproar over hundreds of ducks killed at Canada's biggest oil sands plant by promising, at a U.S. oil industry event on Monday, that the incident will not go unpunished.

The deaths of 500 ducks last week on a Syncrude Canada Ltd wastewater pond was unacceptable, Industry Minister Jim Prentice said during an acceptance speech after Canada was named "Country of the Year" by Energy Magazine.

"We anticipate those responsible will face full scrutiny under Canadian law and, insofar as the government of Canada is concerned, there will be full accountability demanded," Prentice said, according to notes of the speech delivered in Houston.

The Canadian and Alberta governments have called the incident "tragic" and launched investigations.

That's done little to calm environmental groups, who say migratory birds are routinely killed in smaller numbers in tailings ponds, where toxic water from oil extraction sits.

Until last week, much of the debate over the impact of oil sands developments, now the target of more than $100 billion of investments, was concentrated on carbon dioxide emissions.

Technology is the answer to avoiding more animal deaths and cutting greenhouse gas emissions, Prentice said.

"Once again, we need a full government and industry press on technological innovation," he said. "I have every confidence we will be just as successful meeting the environmental challenge as we were the cost of oil sands production."   Continued...