As expected, Husky’s first court date facing provincial and federal charges in connection to the 2016 oil spill was a brief one.
Counsel for Husky, and provincial and federal prosecutors in the case, appeared before Judge Kim Young in Lloydminster provincial court Thursday morning. All of them quickly agreed to set June 21 as the next court date in the case.
Crown prosecutor Matthew Miazga told reporters outside the courtroom the reason for the adjournment was “to allow time for the defendant to be able to review disclosure and prepare their response to the charges.”
The charges are against two Husky entities. Both Husky Energy Inc. and Husky Oil Operations Ltd. face eight counts each under the federal Fisheries Act and one count each under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act. Husky Oil Operations Ltd. also is charged with one count under the provincial Environmental Management and Protection Act.
Husky Oil Operations Ltd. is the entity that held the license for the pipeline; Husky Energy Inc. is the parent company.
The charges stem from the spill of 225,000 litres of oil from the Husky pipeline near Maidstone into the North Saskatchewan River in July, 2016.
The spill required a substantial cleanup effort that lasted well into 2017 and required the shutdown of intakes into water treatment plants downstream, including in North Battleford.
The investigation had been ongoing since the spill in July 2016; the charges came down earlier in the week.
During the court appearance Thursday, Calgary lawyer Brad Gilmour appeared on behalf of Husky. Carol Carlson appeared for the federal Crown by telephone while Miazga appeared for the provincial Crown.
Miazga explained in court the reason for the length of the adjournment was because there was going to be “substantial disclosure” of “tens of thousands of pages of documents” to the defence.
“It’s going to be a massive amount of material,” Miazga said to reporters afterwards.
“Now, to be fair, a lot of it is material that came from the company in the first place, so they’re basically getting back material that they are obliged to provide to investigators. But still, it’s a great deal of material for the lawyer to go through.”
It is hard to say how long Husky’s matters will be before the courts. Miazga said it could take a few months if there is a plea; much longer if it goes to trial.
“I think everybody hopes to try to resolve the case, but again, that’s going to depend on the parties and what positions they take.”
As for penalties Husky faces, Miazga did confirm the penalty for the provincial offence is a maximum of $1 million per day for the offence; the federal penalties run even higher than that.
“The penalties are certainly very substantial, but again, that is something for the court to ultimately make a decision on.”