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Oilsands giant CNRL faces charges over hydrogen sulphide gas release in Alberta

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. - Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. is facing 11 environmental charges over the release of a potentially deadly gas near an aboriginal community in northern Alberta.

The Alberta government says the charges stem from the release of hydrogen sulphide gas on August 2012 from the CNRL Horizon oilsands upgrader facility north of Fort McMurray.

The province says it learned of the leaks after getting complaints from the Fort McKay First Nation and reports from air monitoring stations.

The province alleges CNRL (TSX:CNQ) released the gas, failed to use its equipment properly, failed to report what happened properly and provided misleading information to the government and the Fort McKay First Nation.

Each charge carries a possible maximum fine of $500,000.

Environment Minister Robin Campbell was not immediately available for an interview, instead issuing a written statement that doesn't mention CNRL or the charges, but says the government takes environmental protection seriously.

"Our ability to open new markets for our oil — or to maintain the markets we have today — depends on our credibility when it comes to responsible oilsands development," the statement says.

"Alberta is a leader when it comes to having stringent environmental monitoring, regulation and protection legislation. We are proud of this and remain committed to ensuring that we develop our resources in a responsible and sustainable way."

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