Irving Canaport GP Company Ltd., and Repsol Canada Ltd., are now also facing charges in connection with thousands of migratory birds being killed at the Canaport LNG plant in 2013.

Canaport LNG Limited Partnership was previously charged with three offences in the incident, including two alleged violations of the Migratory Birds Convention Act and one from the Species at Risk Act.

Red-eyed vireo

A large number of red-eyed vireos were among the estimated 7,500 migrating songbirds killed by the flare at Canaport LNG in Saint John. (Courtesy of the Migration Research Foundation)

But on Wednesday, the Crown withdrew the three charges against Canaport LNG and re-entered them with the addition of Irving Canaport GP and Repsol.

None of the companies entered pleas. The matter has been adjourned until May 7 at 9:30 a.m.

Each indictable offence carries a maximum fine of $1 million.

Canaport LNG has declined to comment.

"We do not comment on matters that are before the court," company spokesperson Kate Shannon said in an emailed statement.

The company did not receive disclosure of the evidence from the Crown until Wednesday and was therefore not in a position to enter a plea, said Shannon.

"Canaport LNG will respond to the charges in due course, following a full review of the details," she said.

An estimated 7,500 songbirds were killed when they flew into a gas flare at the liquefied natural gas receiving and regasification terminal ​in Saint John some time between Sept. 14 and Sept. 15, 2013.

Flaring was part of the safety release system used at the east side plant at the time. It was designed to maintain normal operating pressure by burning off small amounts of excess natural gas. The flare tower was about 30 metres tall and the size of the flame varied, depending on weather conditions.

But the gas flare was shut down Sept. 30, 2013, after a $45-million upgrade, announced in March 2012.

A charge under the Species at Risk Act means some of the birds killed were considered threatened or endangered. The Migratory Birds Convention Act is meant to protect species that move annually between summer and winter habitat.

Canaport  LNG flame

The Canaport LNG terminal, located on Saint John's east side, is owned by Repsol and Irving Oil Ltd. (CBC)

​Don McAlpine, the head of zoology at the New Brunswick Museum, who examined the birds, has said there were a large number of red-eyed vireos, several types of warblers, including parula, black-and-white, magnolias and redstarts, as well as a few thrushes and rose-breasted grosbeaks.

McAlpine said at the time it was also possible there may have been some endangered species, such as the olive-sided flycatcher and Canada warbler.

Canaport LNG is a partnership between the Spanish energy company Repsol and Irving Oil Ltd.

Irving Oil owns the land the plant is built on and leases it to its subsidiary, Irving Canaport GP.

​Canaport, which opened in 2009, imports liquefied natural gas from locations such as Qatar and Trinidad by tankers, restores it to its original gaseous form through a process called regasification, and moves it by pipeline to American and Canadian markets.

The charges the companies face include:

  • Between Aug. 30, 2013, and Sept. 29, 2013, they deposited a substance that is harmful to migratory birds, or permit such a substance to be deposited, in an area frequented by migratory birds or in a place from which the substance may enter such an area, contrary to section 5.1 (1) of the Migratory Birds Convention Act, thereby committing an offence contrary to subsection 13(1)(a).
  • At the same time and place, they deposited a substance or permitted a substance to be deposited in any place if the substance, in combination with one or more substances, results in a substance — in an area frequented by migratory birds or in a place from which it may enter such an area — that is harmful to migratory birds, contrary to section 5.1(2) of the Migratory Birds Convention Act, thereby committing an offence contrary to subsection 13(1)(a).
  • At the same place, between Aug. 30, 2013, and Sept. 19, 2013, they unlawfully killed Canada warblers, a wildlife species that is listed as a threatened species, contrary to section 32(1) of the Species at Risk Act, thereby committing and offence contrary to subsection 97(1)(a).

​​Environment Canada is responsible for both the Species at Risk Act and the Migratory Bird Act.