Ontario industrial polluters face stiff new penalty regime
The Ontario Environment Ministry has finalized the regulations that impose the "toughest penalty regime in Canada" ...
The Ontario Environment Ministry has finalized the regulations that impose the “toughest penalty regime in Canada” for companies that release industrial spills to land and water.
The penalties are similar to those in New Jersey and California, and affect companies in nine industrial sectors, though do not apply to municipalities or agricultural operations.
Under the new regime, the Ministry of the Environment has the power to impose monetary penalties on companies, whereas before the ministry could only attempt to prosecute the companies that were responsible for major spills.
The industries affected are petroleum, iron and steel, industrial minerals, inorganic chemicals, organic chemicals, pulp and paper, metal mining, metal casting and electrical power generation facilities.
The penalties for major violations will come into effect in August 1, while penalties for other violations such as improper reporting, will be implemented on December 1, 2008.
The regulations filed on June 6, 2007 follow the passing of the Environmental Enforcement Statute Law Amendment Act (Bill 133) which passed in June 2005.
While the government expects that average penalties for violations such as improper record keeping will be between $1,000, penalties for unlawful spills will be $10,000 to $20,000.
However the amount will be determined by the gravity of the violation. The presence of a toxic substance in the discharge increases the penalty 35%. Also, the amount imposed will depend on how long the company persisted in polluting and will consider any monetary benefit that the company might have gained by not complying with the laws.
Most violations are not capped, but failing to report a spill is capped at $100,000 for multi-day violations, and minor violations are capped at $60,000 or the calculation for a 180-day violation, whichever is less.
Revenues collected from the environmental penalties are to be deposited into a special purpose account and made available to communities to use for environmental remediation projects. Since the Environmental Protection Act already requires polluters to pay compensation for losses or damages, the fund will not be used for compensating individual victims.