Demand fires up for release of Husky pipeline inspection records

The government's refusal to release oil pipeline inspection records is drawing fire from several corners of the province.

Government says release would jeopardize oil spill investigation

Crews work to clean up an oil spill on the North Saskatchewan River near Maidstone, Sask., on July 22, 2016. Husky Energy said between 200,000 and 250,000 litres of crude oil and other material leaked from its pipeline. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

A growing chorus is urging the Saskatchewan government to release Husky Energy pipeline inspection records.

"The province has been consistent in their lack of transparency. It's not good," said Tyrone Tootoosis of the Kisiskatchewan Water Alliance Network.

Water will always be sacred.- Tyrone Tootoosis, Kisiskatchewan Water Alliance Network

"Why are they doing this? It's worrisome."

In the aftermath of the massive July 21 oil spill near the Battlefords, Sask., the Opposition NDP requested all results from on-site tests and inspections of Husky pipelines since 2011.

When the government refused to release the records, the NDP asked privacy commissioner Ronald Kruzeniski to review the matter. Kruzeniski also urged the government to release the records.

The provincial government is sticking to its position, saying a release would jeopardize its own investigation.

"Previous inspection and audit reports relating to the performance of a pipeline are relevant to this aspect of the investigation," the government said in a statement Monday.

Commissioner can't force release

Kruzeniski said releasing the documents won't hurt any investigation.

"I would hope the minister would take another look at it," he said.

Kruzeniski said public bodies have usually complied with his recommendations, but not always. His office has no power to force compliance.

NDP justice critic Nicole Sarauer also hopes the government will reconsider. She said the public has a right to know.

"We're very disappointed ... It's frustrating. All we're looking for are answers," she said.

'Major wake-up call'

On July 21, about 200,000 litres of heavy oil, mixed with another petroleum product, leaked from a Husky pipeline near Lloydminster, Sask. The company says about 40 per cent of that leaked into the North Saskatchewan River.

The Saskatchewan cities of Prince Albert, Melfort and North Battleford had to temporarily shut down their drinking water intake from the river and find other means to supply their residents with drinking water.

In a report released on Nov. 17, Husky said the pipeline ruptured due to ground movement from geotechnical activity.

Tootoosis said the public must demand accountability from the oil industry and from the government officials charged with guarding the land and water. He fears it will take an even more massive spill to force substantive changes.

"We might need a major wake-up call," he said.

"Water will always be sacred ... you can't regenerate water. You can't make water. It's irreplaceable."