|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
On Jan. 1, 2012, a regulation creating a cap-and-trade system took effect. During 2012, designated persons and municipalities were only required to register as “emitters.” As of Jan. 1, 2013, most emitters will have to verify and, for some, cover emissions that exceed the annual threshold of 25,000 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent by providing the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks with enough emission allowances.
OTHER NOTABLE REGULATORY CHANGES
On Feb. 1, 2012, changes to the Environment Quality Act took effect. The amendments strengthen the criminal process, increase the minister’s administrative powers and create a new system of administrative monetary penalties.
CASE OF THE YEAR
Mixed Decision in Québec Environmental Class Action Lawsuit
Residents of a municipality sued the federal government, a research center and a munitions manufacturer in a class action for allegedly spilling the solvent trichloroethylene (TCE) on the ground and contaminating the water table and their drinking water wells. They claimed that the TCE contamination was the cause of an abnormally high number of instances of cancer, illnesses and other health effects among former and current residents of the town. The residents sought compensation and damages as well as an order requiring the defendants to decontaminate the water table. They also asked for punitive damages for injuries to their physical integrity and the enjoyment of their property. The Québec Superior Court ruled that the residents hadn’t proved the TCE contamination caused increased cases of cancer but it did find that the water contamination was a nuisance [Spieser v. Canada,  QCCS 2801 (CanLII), June 21, 2012].
C of A Violations Cost Company $200,000
A company built and used a retaining wall without the appropriate C of A and didn’t comply with its C of A for the storage of aggregates on the shoreline of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. As a result, it pleaded guilty to environmental violations and was fined $200,000 [DJL Inc., Govt. News Release, Feb. 7, 2012].
Release of Untreated Wastewater Costs Company $55,000
A company released de-icing salt into the environment for more than six months, contaminating groundwater and nearby wells. It pleaded guilty to violating the Environmental Quality Act and was fined $15,000 [Benoît L’Heureux Inc., Govt. News Release, Oct. 19, 2011].
Bitumen Spill Costs City $31,000
A city permitted the release of bitumen, a hazardous substance, into the environment and then failed to report the spill as required. It was convicted of two violations of the Regulation on Hazardous Materials and fined $31,000 [City of Lévis, Govt. News Release, Sept. 14, 2012].
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