|A roundup of important new legislation, regulations, government announcements and court cases that we covered in the Environmental Compliance Insider in 2012.
LAW OF THE YEAR
As of Nov. 1, 2012, all future developments must be at least five meters away from abandoned oil and gas wells. The amended Subdivision and Development Regulation applies to all new subdivision applications and development permits for new buildings larger than 47 square meters or additions that make a building larger than 47 square meters.
On Sept. 1, the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan took effect. The plan is the first of seven regional plans committed to under Alberta’s Land-use Framework. It considers the cumulative effects of all activities on air, water and biodiversity; establishes new environmental frameworks with limits to protect air and surface water quality; and increases the total conserved land in the region to more than two million hectares.
CASE OF THE YEAR
Well Control Company’s Negligence Costs It $1.6 Million
A long-suspended sour gas well sent a plume of poisonous hydrogen sulphide gas into the air. It took the new owner of the well 29 days and $24 million to get the well under control. The owner sued the company it had hired to control the well and clean up the damage, arguing that its costs were higher than necessary because of negligence and breach of contract. The court agreed. The company had presented itself as the premier well control company in Alberta and charged a premium price for its services, which it then failed to deliver. Its conduct caused a two day delay in controlling the well. Thus, the court ordered it to pay the owner about $1.6 million in damages [Petrobank Energy and Resources Ltd. v. Safety Boss Ltd.,  ABQB 161 (CanLII), March 6, 2012].
$225,000 Penalty Imposed for Fisheries Violation
Because a drain valve was left open on a chemical tank system while it was being filled, approximately 12,500 litres of a chemical solution containing mainly sodium bisulfite emptied into the Peace River. The company pleaded guilty to violating the federal Fisheries Act. The company was fined $22,500 and ordered to pay $202,500 to the Environmental Damages Fund [Shell Canada Ltd., Govt. News Release, June 12, 2012].
Poultry Company Fined $180,000 for Ammonia Release
A worker’s error at a poultry processing plant resulted in the release of ammonia gas. Nearby residents were forced to leave their homes or shelter inside. The company pleaded guilty to violating the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act and was fined $180,000 [Lilydale Inc., Govt. News Release, July 6, 2012].
Company’s Environmental Violations Result in $150,000 Penalty
A company’s ethanol, gluten and flour processing plant released industrial wastewater into the city’s storm sewer system, which eventually lead to the Red Deer River. It also failed to install air pollution control equipment in violation of its operating approval. The company pled guilty to two violations of the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act. The court fined it $50,000 and ordered it to pay $100,000 to the Red Deer River Storm Water Project [Permolex Ltd., Govt. News Release, April 19, 2012].
Town Penalized $70,000 for Releasing Wastewater into River
After Environment Canada got a complaint about dead fish in the Battle River, investigators found that a town was releasing effluent that was harmful to fish from its wastewater lagoon into the river. The town pleading guilty to one violation of the Fisheries Act. The court fined it $3,750 and ordered it to pay $66,250 to the Environmental Damages Fund. The court also ordered it to make a presentation on the incident and the law at a conference, publish an article in the town newspaper and post information on a number of websites [The Town of Ponoka, Govt. News Release, Dec. 7, 2011].
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