Proposed Changes to Penalties for Environmental Violations in Ontario

Posted by on Nov 14, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

In our blog on October 30th, “Enforcement of Environmental Laws in Canada,” we discussed what appears to be an increased cost of not complying with environmental laws across Canada.

As we said then, environmental protection laws and the penalties associated with non-compliance are constantly changing.  And, indeed, more (proposed) changes are upon us.

Better for People, Smarter for Business Act, 2019

Bill 132, Better for People, Smarter for Business Act, 2019 (Posted October 28, 2019) “…aims to modernize regulatory requirements that are outdated, ineffective, or duplicative of federal regulations or municipal bylaws.”

The bill, if passed, would make several legislative changes across multiple ministries (14 in total) including the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks (MECP).

There are six proposed legislative amendments by the MECP, including “Holding polluters accountable by expanding the use of administrative monetary penalties for environmental contraventions.”

Administrative Monetary Penalties

According to the announcement on the Environmental Registry of Ontario: “Administrative monetary penalties, as a compliance and enforcement tool (i.e. environmental penalties), are currently available to the ministry for some land, water and air violations, but are limited in scope. This gap leaves many program areas with limited enforcement tools and affects the ministry’s ability to effectively hold polluters accountable.”

This announcement goes on to say, “…some of the acts proposed to be amended that are enforced by the ministry do not have the enabling authority to issue administrative monetary penalties (e.g. Safe Drinking Water Act, Pesticides Act), while others are out of step with best practice (e.g. Nutrient Management Act, 2002).”

The Proposed Monetary Penalties

“The proposed amendments would enable administrative monetary penalties to be issued for a broad range of environmental violations under the acts mentioned above (Nutrient Management Act, Ontario Water Resources Act, Pesticides Act, and Safe Drinking Water Act). To take effect, violations that may be subject to an administrative monetary penalty would be prescribed in regulation.”

The bill if passed, would make several legislative changes across multiple ministries in Ontario.

The proposed administrative monetary penalties are:

  • Ontario Water Resources Act – $200,000 per contravention (same as the Environmental Protection Act)
  • Pesticides Act – $100,000 per contravention
  • Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002 – $100,000 per contravention
  • Nutrient Management Act, 2002 – $10,000 per contravention

Administrative Monetary Penalties in Other Jurisdictions

The announcement points to other jurisdictions in Canada and the United States that use administrative monetary penalties, including British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, Ohio, Vermont, and Minnesota.

If you care to get some perspective, you can take a look at what we shared with our U.S. clients in our February 14, 2018, U.S. blog on the new penalty scheme by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (see Environmental Compliance:  Increased Cots, 2017 Summary, and Recent Fines).

If you care to comment on the MECP’s proposed administrative monetary penalties, you have until November 27, 2019.

We’ll continue to monitor this and other regulatory developments.  And, as always, we’ll share what we learn in our blogs and newsletters.

If you need help or advice on an environmental matter, we can help.  Feel free to contact me at 519-979-7300, Ext. 114.

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