Encana Corp. faces two environmental charges related to a sour gas leak that occurred nearly a year ago in northeastern British Columbia (BC), the BC Ministry of Environment said Wednesday.

The ministry filed charges against Encana under the province's Environmental Management Act. One count against the company is for introducing business-related waste into the environment. A second count is for failing to report promptly a spill of a polluting substance.

Following the leak at the Swan well site near Pouce Coupe, BC, Encana instituted safety procedures and conducted a risk assessment at 500 drilling sites (see Daily GPI, Feb. 5).

After an investigation, the BC Oil and Gas Commission last February found that the Calgary-based producer was unprepared for the eight-hour incident and that sour gas alarms and emergency shutdown valves did not work properly.

Commissioners also faulted Encana's response to the incident, which they said was slow. Area residents contacted authorities before Encana. No one was hurt in the incident.

Encana said it could not comment on pending litigation. On Oct. 13 the case is scheduled to be heard before a Fort St. John, BC, Provincial Court.

In response to the charges, the Peace Environment and Safety Trustees called for a public inquiry, which it said would help to draw attention to "existing flaws" in the system for reporting gas leaks.

©Copyright 2010 Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in any form, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.