Environmental Enforcement News Across Canada

Posted by on Aug 8, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

We are taking a break from news regarding vapour intrusion, managing excess soils, and the hot button issue of PFAS to provide a brief update on environmental enforcement activity.

Below are just a few of our environmental enforcement observations.

Pipeline Release

How we move natural resources from their point of extraction to refinement and then to actual distribution is an important issue.  Mishandling these products can affect human health and the environment.

We move a lot of product by way of pipeline in Canada.  According to Natural Resources Canada, there are 840,000 km of pipelines across Canada.  When one of these fail, it gets attention.

On July 15, 2015, a pipeline break occurred at the Nexen Energy ULC Long Lake facility located near Anzac, Alberta (south of Fort McMurray).  The break released approximately 5,000 cubic metres of emulsion product.  The product, according to the news release, consists of “… bitumen, water and sand…”

An investigation and subsequent opinion by Environment and Climate Change Canada states that, “…these substances are harmful to migratory birds and that the spill occurred in an area frequented by migratory birds.”

As a result of this release to the environment, on July 13, 2018, Nexen Energy ULC was ordered to pay a penalty of $290,000.00 in the Provincial Court of Alberta.  The penalty will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund for the purposes of protecting, conserving, and restoring the environment in relation to migratory birds in northeastern Alberta.

As an aside, in a study a few years ago by the Fraser Institute, they state, “Both rail and pipelines are quite safe, but pipelines are without a doubt the safest way to transport oil and gas.”

According to Natural Resources Canada, there are 840,000 km of pipelines across Canada. Photo by Quinten de Graaf on Unsplash

According to Natural Resources Canada, there are 840,000 km of pipelines across Canada. Photo by Quinten de Graaf on Unsplash

Water Discharge

Perhaps validating Mark Twain’s pithy quote, “Man is a creature created at the end of the week…when God was tired,” it appears human error was the issue for an environmental violation at a pulp mill.

According to the official news release from Environment and Climate Change Canada, “…the Mackenzie Pulp Mill Corporation pleaded guilty, in the Provincial Court of British Columbia, to depositing a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish, in violation of the pollution-prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act.”

The “offences” occurred in July 2014 and September 2016 and were related to effluent discharges to Williston Lake.  Apparently, the waste water treatment system had failed “…due in part to improper management of the wastewater entering the system.”

The company was ordered to pay a penalty of $900,000.00, and as a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.

Gas Bar Violation

In a penalty that went from bad to worse, the Big River First Nation failed to comply with an environmental protection order.  The fine was increased from $10,000.00 to $100,000.00 after a successful appeal by the Crown.

The Crown appealed the decision on the grounds that the original fine was “unfit” and the judge erred when handing down the sentence.

The report by CBC News says, “Big River’s Miami Gas Bar failed a 2011 inspection in which violations related to non-compliance, piping and the pumps around fuel storage tanks were found.”

Among the violations noted in the report were, “Storage tank systems did not have any identification numbers and there was also no product transfer area to contain any potential spills.”

Although a written warning was issued, the problems were still not fixed by July 2014. An environmental protection compliance order was issued against the band and its band administrator.

It was determined later, in March 2015, that they had failed to comply with the order. The band later pleaded guilty to the offence.

The original lower fine was based on the language in the sentencing process which meant the minimum fine would be $5,000.00. rather than $100,000.00.

The appeal judge found the original Crown argument to be the correct one and increased the fine to $100,000.00.

Renewable Fuels Violation

The Renewable Fuels Regulations require fuel producers and importers to have an average renewable content of 5 percent in gasoline and 2 percent in diesel fuel and heating distillate oil, based on volume.  And according to a recent news release, Canadian National (CN) Railway failed to meet this requirement.

On May 14, 2018, CN pleaded guilty to “importing a fuel that does not meet the requirements of the Renewable Fuels Regulation.”  CN was fined $25,000.00, which was the “cheap” part as the court also ordered $1,101,267.00 to, “…promote the protection of the environment.”

As always, we are here to assist you with environmental compliance, assessment, or remediation issues (preferably before there is enforcement action).  You can reach us at 519-979-7300.