No actual environmental damage- whatsoever!

March 11, 2015

Dear Membership,

I am writing to provide much needed clarification on the most recent situation regarding your band operated business, Blackhawk’s Gas. The situation I speak of is the recent fine recently levied against the store.

In early 2013 an officer from Environment Canada did a site visit at Blackhawk’s Gas. He asked to see if the store had an Emergency Management Plan in effect; unfortunately at that time nothing was in place.

What is an Emergency Management Plan (EMP)?

An EMP focuses on the roles and responsibilities of staff and management in the event of emergency, such as fuel spill, fire, explosion, theft, or other emergency impacting the store. The officer stated to the manager at the time that any store selling fuel or fuel products is required by law to have the EMP in place.

Reviewing the documentation obtained from the lawyer at Maurice Law, the store, management, and key members of the board were provided ample time and support from Environment Canada to get this plan in place. Regrettably nothing was done. Environment Canada pursued legal action against three parties: 1) Blackhawk’s Gas, 2) the former board chair and 3) the manager at the time.

This was a lengthy process as we spent a lot of time with our lawyer developing a strategy on how to approach this situation. As you can appreciate, we wanted to ensure that the store would incur the least amount of fines.

On February 18, 2015 a decision was handed down against Blackhawk’s Gas, of which I will elaborate more on shortly.

Within a day of the court’s decision the press had already released their interpretation of the situation and released an article with headline reading:

“Gas station in Saskatchewan fined $27K for environmental violations”

One obviously assumes the worst when reading such sensational headlines. A gross exaggeration.

Article can be seen at:

http://saskatoon.ctvnews.ca/gas-station-in-saskatchewan-fined-27k-for-environmental-violations-1.2246163

In actuality, there were no environmental violations whatsoever. The case against Blackhawk’s Gas was purely due to the lack of an Emergency Management Plan – and not environmental violations as the headlines would have you believe.

Why was Environment Canada involved in the first place?

It is just the role of Environment Canada to ensure gas stations are in compliance with environmental rules and regulations and were conducting a routine visit of our site.

During the court case the Crown obtained documentation from the band. One piece of evidence was the store’s audit. Within the audit, there were notes specifically on dealing with the underground tanks. MNP (the band’s auditor), had to include this specific piece as the store will have to eventually replace the tanks due to their age.

The Crown, seeing this audit notation, made the assumption that we had problems with our fuel tanks. This issue was argued by the lawyer and originally had no bearing on the charges brought up against the store and former management. However good the argument was, the Crown held its ground and the business would be forced to comply or face stiffer penalties.

What was the end result?

  1. The store will pay $27,000 in fines to the Crown and charges stayed against any other parties involved;
  2. The store will have to have in place an Emergency Management Plan;
  3. The store will provide training for management and staff on dealing with emergency situations;
  4. The store will contract a professional to do 3 consecutive months of sump inspections; and
  5. The store will ensure an environmental audit is completed.

The current board of Blackhawk’s Gas has begun the process of the environmental audit. Any deficiencies identified will have to be dealt with immediately at the expense of our store.

Does the store now have an EMP?

We are working on an EMP that meets the requirements set out by Environment Canada. Our initial drafts have been accepted by the Crown, but due to the ever-changing nature of emergency situations, the document and response plan may be adjusted and amended as necessary.

What was the final cost for the case?

Here is a final cost breakdown:

$27,000 – Environment Canada (had we not taken this option, the fine against the store would have started at minimum $100,000)

$25,000 – Legal fees payable to Maurice Law

$25,000 – Environment audit – this is the base cost. This does not include any clean up     if it is required or other fees that have not been considered at the time of writing this letter

$20,000 – Other costs associated with the compliance order of the emergency management plan

$4,000 – Consultant work

$101,000 against store revenues for fiscal year 2014/15.

I hope this clarifies for you the situation regarding Blackhawk’s Gas. This year has been a trying time for the store as we dealt with both the court case and a major break and enter that cost your store an additional $15,000 in total loss.

We learned a lot and despite these set-backs, we continue to move forward on future site plans to serve our community and customers for years to come.

Should you have any questions, issues or concerns with any of the above please contact me at the band office.

Sincerely,

 

Jeremy Seeseequasis, Councillor i/c Finance and Lands
Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation

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