Reality TV star Tony Beets stands outside Yukon territorial court April 18. Beets has appealed the $31,000 in fines he and his company, Tamarack Inc., were ordered to pay after a subcontractor poured gasoline into a pond a lit it on fire. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

Gold Rush star Tony Beets appeals pond fire fines

Beets and his company, Tamarack Inc., were fined $31k for violating portions of the Waters Act

The lawyer for Yukon miner and reality television star Tony Beets was back in court April 10 to appeal the $31,000 in fines Beets and his company, Tamarack Inc., were handed last year for failing to stop a worker from pouring gasoline on a pond and setting it on fire.

Beets, one of the stars of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush, was found guilty in August 2017 of permitting the deposit of waste into water in a water management area and failing to report having done so under the Yukon Waters Act. Tamarack was also found guilty of those charges, as well as two counts of failing to comply with the conditions of its water licence.

The charges stem from an incident in October 2014, where an employee of Beets’ poured about a gallon of gasoline into a dredge pond and set it on fire. The Gold Rush crew filmed the event, which included Beets standing, arms outstretched, in front of the blaze, and the footage was included in the show’s episode “100 Ounces.”

The video was a key piece of evidence for the Crown during the trial.

In court April 10, however, André Roothman argued before Yukon Supreme Court Justice Leigh Gower that trial and sentencing judge Peter Chisholm had erred on four grounds — failing to consider the minimal impact the incident had on the environment, failing to abide by a legal principle that prohibits multiple convictions for the same action, Tamarack’s corporate liability, and handing down “unduly harsh” fines.

Beets was not in court.

In his submissions, Roothman pointed out that during the trial, an expert had testified that the amount of gasoline poured onto the pond would likely have little impact on aquatic life or water quality, even if it hadn’t been burned off. As well, the worker who poured the gasoline was working for Beets, not Tamarack, Roothman said, an important distinction because the water licence in question was in Tamarack’s name.

In regards to the Tamarack charges, Roothman said Chisholm had failed to abide by the Kienapple principle, which is a rule against multiple convictions for a single act. It’s relevant in this case, he argued, because depositing waste into water and failing to report it — both of which Tamarack was convicted of — were also the conditions that Tamarack violated on its water licence, and the court was “double-dipping” by punishing Tamarack for both sets of charges.

Finally, Roothman said the fine levied against Beets and Tamarack were excessive. Beets was fined $4,000 for permitting the deposit of waste into water and $2,000 for failing to report it, and Tamarack was fined $10,000 and $5,000 for the same charges, as well as $5,000 each for the two failures to comply with the conditions of its water licence. The worker who poured the gasoline, Roothman noted, was only fined $1,725 for his role.

Roothman also said that it’s possible the video was doctored in some way, but added that that was a minor point.

Territorial Crown lawyer Megan Seiling argued that Chisholm’s decisions and reasonings were valid and that the appeal should be dismissed. She emphasized both Chisholm and the trial Crown attorney’s position that fines should be significant enough that they are not merely seen as “the cost of doing business,” and added the fact that the crime in this case was filmed and watched by millions highlighted the need to condemn and deter the behaviour.

Gower reserved his decision.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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