Norwegian state oil company Statoil appeared in front of a Canadian court on Wednesday for the first preliminary hearing of a case in which the company stands accused of misusing water sources in connection with their controversial Alberta oil sands projects. The embarrassment felt by Norwegian environmentalists for Statoil’s involvement led one group, Grandparents Climate Action of Norway, to run an advertisement in a Canadian newspaper distancing Norwegians from Statoil’s actions.
Authorities in the province of Alberta claimed back in February that Statoil broke its water license and gave false or misleading information regarding its water use. Statoil’s projects in the sensitive Alberta oil sands (also known as tar sands) have drawn international criticism for environmentalists, as well as local opposition from the region’s indigenous population.
Norwegian environmental organizations have often vociferously opposed the operations, and staged a silent protest outside the court itself on Wednesday. CBC News in Canada also reported that Grandparents Climate Action of Norway ran a half-page advertisement in a local newspaper in Edmonton, where the court case will take place, stating that its 2,000 members “deeply regret that Norway’s 67 per cent state-owned company Statoil is part of this dirty and dangerous project.”
The advertisement added that the grandparents “want Canadian citizens to know that the environmental movement in Norway is unanimous in its condemnation of the ongoing tarsands extraction in Alberta.” Attempts by company shareholders to stop the projects failed in the past, but Greenpeace Norway is already promising to try again to stop the project through shareholders.
If found guilty on the 19 counts of breaking local regulations, Statoil could face a fine of NOK 60 million (USD 10 million).
The preliminary hearing on Wednesday featured only the respective lawyers of both Statoil and the province of Alberta. The court decided on a further preliminary hearing for June 30, with the date of the eventual full case still unscheduled. According to CBC News in Canada, the long delay until the next hearing is unusual, but is necessary in order to give the parties involved time to pour over the abnormally large number of documents connected to the proceedings.