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CN has been sentenced to pay $1.8 million in fines for two spills from 2005 derailments in Alberta and B.C. Most of these moneys will be directed to local environmental programs.

Wabamun, Alberta spill

In the Wabamun derailment, 196,000 of the approximately 800,000 litres of heavy oil (Bunker C) and pole-treating oil spilled entered the lake.  The spill affected migratory birds and their nesting habitat, contaminated several kilometres of shoreline, damaged private property and required CN to truck in drinking water for 18 months. CN says that the spill cost the company and its insurer over $132 million to remediate and to compensate affected stakeholders, such as nearby residents and the Paul Band First Nation. 

CN pleaded guilty to the following 3 charges:

  • harmful alteration and destruction of fish habitat, contravening the Fisheries Act (fine $400,000);
  • depositing a harmful substance in an area frequented by birds, an offence under the Migratory Birds Convention Act (fine $600,000).  Of note, the fine under the MBCA is the largest ever imposed under that statute; and
  • failing to take all reasonable measures to remedy and confine the spill, contravening Alberta’s Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act. Much of the $400,000 fine will be paid into trust to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) to develop an emergency preparedness training course.  Also under that statute, CN was ordered to implement an emergency response plan that meets industry standards, and will likely cost up to $1.2 million.

Cheakamus River, BC spill

Approximately 40,000 litres of sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) spilled into the Cheakamus River, killing at least 500,000 fish. CN pleaded guilty to one count under the Fisheries Act (for depositing a deleterious substance into waters frequented by fish)and was fined $400,000.  Of this, $350,000 will be earmarked for projects in the Squamish river watershed. 

CN collaborated with the local municipality, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, B.C.’s Ministry of the Environment and the Squamish First Nation to form the Cheakamus Ecosystem Restoration Technical Committee (CERTC), which had as its objective to rehabilitate and restore the river as quickly as possible.  The company spent over $5 million to fund the CERTC, the Pacific Salmon Foundation and to support a municipal initiative promoting the area as a recreation region.  CN also established the $2 million Cheakamus Ecosystem Recovery Fund, which has already approved several enhancement projects by local environmental groups.   

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