04/04/2012 03:27 EDT | Updated 06/04/2012 05:12 EDT

Suncor Newfoundland Spill: Energy Company Charged In Synthetic Drilling Mud Incident

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) faces three federal charges relating to a reported spill of synthetic-based mud from an offshore drilling rig last year off Newfoundland.

The charges laid by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board follow a reported spill of more than 26,000 litres of fluid used to lubricate drill pipes and balance reservoir pressure.

Suncor is charged with causing an offshore spill, failing to handle drilling fluids in a way that would prevent pollution, and failing to handle drilling fluids so they don't create an environmental hazard.

If convicted, Suncor could face a fine of up to $100,000 for each charge or jail time of up to one year under the Canada-Newfoundland Atlantic Accord.

The federal-provincial offshore regulator laid the charges after investigating a reported spill March 28, 2011, on the Henry Goodrich drill rig.

Suncor Energy spokeswoman Nancy Wicks says protecting workers and the environment is a top priority.

She declined to comment further as the issue is now before court.

Shortly after the spill, the province's natural resources minister chided the regulator for taking three days to report it.

A spokesman for the regulator said it took time to verify the details and investigate possible causes, but agreed that officials could have been quicker in releasing information about the spill.

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