New Brunswick

Canaport LNG bird kill case adjourned without pleas again

The court case of Canaport LNG Limited Partnership, Irving Canaport GP Company Ltd., and Repsol Canada Ltd., in connection with the deaths of thousands of migratory birds in Saint John nearly two years ago, has been adjourned again without any pleas.

Canaport LNG, Irving Canaport and Repsol each face 3 charges dating back to 2013

An estimated 7,500 songbirds were killed by the flare at Canaport LNG in September 2013, including a large number of red-eyed vireos. (Courtesy of the Migration Research Foundation)

The court case of three companies charged in connection with the deaths of thousands of migratory birds at the Canaport LNG terminal in Saint John nearly two years ago has been adjourned yet again without any pleas.

Canaport LNG Limited Partnership, Irving Canaport GP Company Ltd., and Repsol Canada Ltd. each face three charges, including two alleged violations of the Migratory Birds Convention Act and one from the Species at Risk Act.

Flaring used to be part of the safety release system at the Canaport LNG terminal, but it was shut down Sept. 30, 2013, after a $45-million upgrade. (CBC)
The companies were scheduled to enter pleas in Saint John court on Thursday morning, but a lawyer representing Repsol requested more time for one of the defendants to review scientific data in the case. He did not identify which defendant.

The case has been set over until Sept. 28 at 9:30 a.m.

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

Flaring was part of the safety release system used at the plant at the time, but was shut down Sept. 30, 2013, after a $45-million upgrade.

Disappointed by delay

Sabine Dietz, president of Nature NB, a non-profit organization that aims to protect and conserve New Brunswick's natural heritage, says she is "a bit disappointed" the court case has been "lagging so long."

"The incident was 2013. It's been almost two years since it happened," she said.

Dietz says she understands the case is complex and likely involves a lot of information about the types of birds that were killed, what condition they were found in, and what exactly killed them.

"Myself being a biologist, I'm thinking that's quite a pile of documentation. And no matter how you look at it, it does take time," she said.

Still, Dietz says she's anxious to see what comes out of the "nationally important" case and is concerned it may end up being settled out of court.

We want to make sure it's fully disclosed and understood … so we can actually learn lessons from it and how we can avoid it happening elsewhere.- Sabine Dietz, Nature NB

"It might be cheaper to settle out of court, but at the same time, we don't learn that much about what happened. We don't know if we will get the information the defence and prosecutor have in hand," she said.

"For us, it's important to prevent these kinds of events. So the information, and the case, in that respect, is important to us. We don't want to see these things happening again.

"We want to make sure it's fully disclosed and understood — what caused the death of those birds, how this could have been prevented, who's at fault, if the system broke down — so we can actually learn lessons from it and how we can avoid it happening elsewhere."

In May, the court case was adjourned without pleas to allow more time for full disclosure by the Crown.

The previous adjournment without pleas was in January.

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

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