Alberta premier criticizes oil spill cleanup

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is critical of the company behind one of the biggest oil spills in the province's history.
About 100 workers are mopping up after a leaking pipeline spilled 4.5 million litres of oil northeast of Peace River, Alta. ((Briar Stewart/CBC))

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is critical of the company behind one of the biggest oil spills in the province's history.

"From what I gather they could be doing a better job and we're going to hold their feet to the fire to make sure they're there and they will have to pay all the costs related to the clean up," he said Thursday.

'We're going to hold their feet to the fire.'—Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach

He did not elaborate any further. 

But the premier said there is no reason to send his environment minister to the cleanup site.

His spokesman said later that Stelmach was criticizing the company's communications with the public and the Lubicon Cree, who live near the leak site.

Plains Midstream Canada apologized Thursday for any damage caused by its pipeline leak, which spilled 4.5 million litres of crude oil near Peace River, Alta., over the weekend.

The Rainbow pipeline leak contaminated eight acres of beaver ponds and muskeg in a densely forested area, said vice-president Mike Halihan.

The line has been repaired and is waiting to come back into operation, he said.

The 60-centimetre pipeline runs 775 kilometres from Zama, Alta., to Edmonton and is capable of moving 220,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Stelmach, however, said the pipeline won't be allowed to come back on line until the nearby First Nation community of Little Buffalo can be assured it is safe.

Some residents in the community 14 kilometres away complained fumes from the spill were making their children sick.

The company has been monitoring the air around the spill site and the nearby First Nation community Little Buffalo since the leak began, said Halihan.

So far there have been no readings above the hydrocarbon levels allowed under Alberta's air quality guidelines, he said.

Lubicon Lake Nation officials at Little Buffalo met with company representatives Wednesday.

Chief Bernard Ominayak said he was told the spill should be contained by the weekend.

"We hope to continue to have meaningful dialogue with Plains Midstream Canada going forward which will include the Lubicon Lake Nation actively participating in cleanup efforts," he said in a press release.