British Columbia intends to improve waste soil relocation regulations

by Max Collett, Norton Rose Fulbright

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy in British Columbia intends to bring forward legislation to better regulate excess soil relocation, including waste soils, and reduce deposit of soils in landfills.

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy has for years been aware that certain participants in the soil and waste transport and relocation industry have not been complying with the current regulations, which are reliant on source site and recipient site owners entering into a Contaminated Soil Relocation Agreement (CSRA) with the ministry.

In January 2019 the ministry issued a final policy recommendation with a series of proposed substantive amendments to the soil relocation regulations and legislation. The following are notable features of the new regulations:

  • Distinguish between soils and waste soils, and regulate the relocation of waste soils. Waste soil is to refer to soil that possesses a substance concentration greater than the lowest applicable industrial land use standard
  • Remove the requirement for a CSRA (a positive development as execution of these agreements was time consuming)
  • Introduce notification and certification requirements:
    • require that the applicant deliver advance notification to local governments as well as “indigenous groups” in the area of both source and receiving sites. (To date, the ministry has not given any indication how an applicant will be able to identify the applicable indigenous groups, which is not always obvious in areas of overlapping claims and interests)
    • require that the applicant complete chemical characterization and vapour assessments for certain waste soils and obtain certification by approved professionals. Certifications will be subject to random audits. (The introduction of approved professionals and audit verification should be a positive development and enable applicants to better control the soil relocation process and associated project scheduling. This process will be similar to that undertaken for independent remediation of contaminated sites)
  • Amend the Environmental Management Act to provide for administrative monetary penalties if soil relocation requirements are not met
  • Potentially add new requirements for landfills and high-volume receiving sites.

The ministry intends to seek government approval for these amendments in 2019. We will provide a further update once it is confirmed whether the province approves the recommendations and tables specific legislative and regulatory amendments for approval.


This article was published with permission of the author. It was first posted on the Norton Rose Fulbright website.

About the Author

Max Collett provides quality, timely and practical advice to public and private sector clients on all legal matters pertaining to complex commercial real estate development and environmental law. He assists developers, First Nations economic development companies, governmental agencies and health authorities, amongst others, to structure the ownership of projects, and acquire, finance, construct, operate and sell institutional, industrial, commercial and residential developments. He has extensive experience with legal matters pertaining to the management or redevelopment of contaminated, brownfield sites. Mr. Collett is counsel on a diverse range of projects, from complex mixed-use strata developments, complex commercial developments, health care facilities to joint venture developments on First Nations lands. He regularly assists on institutional projects undertaken pursuant to public-private partnerships. Mr. Collett also advises commercial and industrial clients on all aspects of regulatory compliance with environmental laws.

What are the core requirements of wide area CBRNe training?

Written by Steven Pike, Argon Electronics

When you are required to conduct wide area emergency preparedness training – be it in the setting of a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNe) school, a dedicated military center or an industrial facility – the ongoing challenge for any CBRNe instructor is to be able to create a scenario that is realistic, safe, reliable and cost effective.

Trainees need to be equipped with the practical knowledge and skills to respond with confidence to an enormous variety of potential live incidents. And each threat brings with it a unique set of practical, physical and psychological tasks that need to be ‘experienced’ in order to be understood.

So what is the recommended approach to help instructors implement a realistic but safe CBRNe training environment?

Overcoming regulatory obstacles

While the spreading of chemical simulants can still occasionally be an option, strict environmental regulations generally make it unfeasible – and the use of any form of radiological source is almost always going to be unrealistic for all but the most high specialized of training facilities.

Simulant training also brings with it the problem of being very location-dependent, which restricts the ability to create scenarios in public settings or confined spaces. And there is the added difficulty of it not being able to be readily integrate simulant training with other conventional live training methods.

Wide-area instrumented training systems

When the highest degree of realism is required, a powerful modular exercise control system such as PlumeSIM enable instructors to take their CBRNe training exercises to an entirely new level. And it especially comes into its own in the context of counter terrorism scenarios, nuclear training drills and HazMat emergency exercises.

So what benefits does the PlumeSIM training system offer?

Portability – Plume-SIM is highly portable making it quick to set up and to use in any environment. The inclusion of a planning mode also means that instructors can easily prepare exercises on a laptop or PC without the need for any form of system hardware.

Realism – Students are equipped with simulators and GPS enabled players, to enable them to take part in large area exercises that can include sequential multi-threat releases or that integrate with third-party live training systems.

Instructor control – The instructor retains complete control of the exercise including the ability to decide the type, quantity, location and nature of the source.

Environment – Specific environmental conditions can also be easily defined by the user, including temperature and changes in wind direction.

Repeatability – The Plume-SIM’s exercise parameters can be saved so the identical scenario can be repeated as many times as required.

Real-time action -The trainees’ movements, progress and instrument usage can be monitored in real time from a central control station.

After action review – The recording of student activity in real-time provides useful after action review (AAR). This can be used to encourage discussions about the effectiveness of an exercise and to facilitate further improvements.

Data capture – All recorded exercise data can also be exported and emailed to external personnel for future analysis.

Pre-exercise capability – The table-top planning mode uses standard gamepad controllers which enables trainees to undertake pre-exercise practice to take place within the classroom environment. The exercise can also be recorded and analysed prior to heading for the live field training area.

Versatility – If environmental conditions preclude the ability to obtain or maintain continuous long-range radio communication then the scenario can be pre-loaded on the player unit for timed activation.

Compatibility – The Plume-SIM system is compatible with a wide variety of simulator equipment including the M4 JCAD-SIMCAMSIMAP2C-SIMAP4C-SIMRDS200-SIMEPD-Mk2-SIMAN/PDR-77-/VDR-2 and RDS100-SIM.

Room to grow – The modular system gives instructors the flexibility to expand their range of training equipment as and when their budgets allow.

Achieving the highest level of realism in CBRNe training is paramount – and assuring personnel safety will always be key.

A flexible, modular simulator-based training solution such as the PlumeSIM system can provide trainees with the opportunity to practice and perfect their response to a wide variety of highly-realistic simulated threats in a completely safe environment.


About the Author

Steven Pike is the Founder and Managing Director of Argon Electronics, a leader in the development and manufacture of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) and hazardous material (HazMat) detector simulators. He is interested in liaising with CBRN professionals and detector manufacturers to develop training simulators as well as CBRN trainers and exercise planners to enhance their capability and improve the quality of CBRN and Hazmat training.

When Is It Too Late to Sue for Environmental Contamination? The Alberta Court of Appeal Rules

Written by Laura M. Gill, Stephanie Clark, and Justin Duguay, Bennett Jones LLP

On February 6, 2019, the Alberta Court of Appeal (ABCA) released its first ever decision on section 218 of the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA), which may extend limitation periods applicable to environmental contamination claims.

By a unanimous decision in Brookfield Residential (Alberta) LP (Carma Developers LP) v Imperial Oil Limited, 2019 ABCA 35 [Brookfield], the ABCA upheld a lower court decision where the judge refused to exercise his discretion under section 218 of the EPEA to extend the limitation period for an environmental contamination claim. Extending the limitation period would have likely been prejudicial to the defendant’s ability to maintain a defence to the claim, as the alleged cause of the environmental damage occurred over 60 years ago. We previously discussed the 2017 Court of Queen’s Bench decision in an earlier post, When is an Environmental Contamination Claim Too Old to Extend the Limitation Period?

Background

Brookfield Residential (Alberta) LP (Brookfield) brought a negligence claim in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench (ABQB) against Imperial Oil Limited (Imperial) for environmental contamination from an oil well. Imperial drilled and operated the well between 1949 and 1950, and disposed of it in either 1950 or 1954. Multiple owners operated the well between 1950 and 1957 and then used it for salt water disposal between 1958 and 1961, at which point the well was decommissioned and abandoned. After several additional transfers of ownership, the site was issued a reclamation certificate in 1968. Contamination requiring remediation was not discovered until 2010, when Brookfield was preparing the site for residential development.

Brookfield brought an application under section 218 of the EPEA to extend the limitation period, and Imperial cross-applied with a summary dismissal application, asserting that the limitation period had expired. Since it was clear that the ten-year ultimate limitation period under the Limitations Act had expired, Brookfield’s negligence claim was entirely dependent on an extension of the limitation period under section 218. The ABQB refused to extend the limitation period and summarily dismissed the action against Imperial. Brookfield appealed.

The appeal was dismissed. In its reasons, the ABCA provided guidance on three important aspects of section 218 applications: (i) procedure and timing; (ii) the impact of the passage of time on prejudice to the defendant; and (iii) policy considerations relevant to the fourth factor in section 218(3).

1. Applications Under Section 218 of the EPEA Should Be Decided Prior to Trial

The ABCA in Brookfield ruled that applications under section 218 of the EPEA should be decided prior to trial, overruling the two-part test in Lakeview Village Professional Centre Corporation v Suncor Energy Inc, 2016 ABQB 288 [Lakeview]. In Lakeview, the ABQB set out a two-part approach to section 218 applications where the court may make a preliminary determination on limitations and allow the action to proceed subject to a final determination on the merits of the limitations issue at trial. Lakeview became the leading case on the procedure for section 218 applications.

In overturning the Lakeview test, the ABCA found two problems with the approach of deferring the decision on extending limitation periods until trial. First, the Lakeview approach “is inconsistent with the wording of section 218, which provides that the limitation period can be extended ‘on application'”. Second, the approach defeats the whole purpose of limitation periods because it forces a defendant to go through the expense and inconvenience of a full trial on the merits for a determination on limitations, notwithstanding that a limitation period is intended to eliminate the distractions, expense, and risks of litigation after the prescribed time has passed.

2. The Passage of Time Increases the Likelihood of Prejudice to the Defendant

The ABCA affirmed the approach of balancing the four factors in section 218(3), which in this case revolved primarily around the third factor (prejudice to the defendant). The ABCA found that it was reasonable for the ABQB to infer prejudice from the passage of time, noting that this is the presumption behind statutes of limitation. The allegations in Brookfield’s claim occurred over 60 years ago, and as such, witnesses and documentary evidence were difficult to identify and were no longer available. The passage of time also made it difficult to establish the proper standard of care. The ABCA agreed that attempting to determine 1949 industry standards and the standard of care at that time would prejudice Imperial.

3. The Competing Policy Objectives of the Limitations Act and the EPEA

The ABCA also provided guidance on the fourth factor listed in section 218(3), which grants judicial discretion to consider “any other criteria the court considers to be relevant”. The ABCA found that policy considerations behind limitations statutes were relevant criteria that should be weighed. In particular, the ABCA noted the policy objectives of statutes of limitations that actions must be commenced within set periods so that defendants are protected from ancient obligations, disputes are resolved while evidence is still available, and claims are adjudicated based on the standards of conduct and liability in place at the time. However, on the other hand, the ABCA highlighted that the EPEA has a “polluter pays” objective where a polluter should not escape responsibility by the mere passage of time.

Implications

The ABCA’s decision in Brookfield changes the procedure for extending limitation periods in environmental contamination claims. Rather than waiting until trial, parties must bring section 218 applications early on. As a result, plaintiffs in contaminated sites claims should also carefully assess the impacts on defendants of the passage of time in making section 218 applications. Brookfield reinforces that a court will likely presume greater prejudice from a longer passage of time, especially if witnesses and evidence may be difficult to identify and the standard of care may be difficult to assess. Going forward, Brookfield suggests that the Court will take a practical approach to assessing prejudice against a defendant when deciding whether to extend limitation periods in contaminated site claims where the ultimate limitation period has passed.


This article has been republished with the permission of the authors. It was first published on the Bennett Jones website.

About the Authors

Laura Gill is called to the bar in Alberta and British Columbia and has a commercial litigation practice specializing in energy and natural resources, First Nations issues, and environmental matters. Laura advises clients on disputes in a wide range of corporate matters, including complex breach of contract claims and joint ventures.

Laura’s experience in the energy industry includes litigating disputes involving leases, right-of-way agreements, ownership stakes, royalties, gas supply contracts, farmout agreements, and CAPL operating agreements. Laura also acts on appeals and judicial review proceedings following decisions of regulatory bodies, in particular with respect to regulatory approvals for energy-related projects in Alberta and British Columbia.

Stephanie Clark has a general commercial litigation practice. Stephanie has assisted with matters before all levels of the Alberta court system. During law school, Stephanie held a student clerkship with the Honourable Mr. Justice Nicholas Kasirer at the Court of Appeal of Quebec, competed in the 2015 Jessup International Law Moot, and was awarded with the Borden Ladner Gervais Professional Excellence Award. Stephanie articled with the firm’s Calgary office prior to becoming an associate. 

Justin Duguay is an articling student at Bennett Jones.

Leaking Sewers Cost City 50% of Dry Cleaner Site Cleanup Costs

Written by John A. McKinney Jr., Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi PC

Are you in a case where an on-site and off-site groundwater plume of dry-cleaning solution (perchloroethylene or PCE) or other hazardous substance is intersected by sewers through which the used and disposed solution flowed?  If so, the case of Mission Linen Supply v. City of Visalia (2019 WL 446358) bears your close review.

Based on the facts and expert testimony adduced at the bench trial, the court determined that: 1) the sewers were installed by the City below general industry standards; 2) the City sewers had numerous defects including holes and broken pipes, cracks, separated joints, missing portions of pipes, root intrusion and other conditions; and, 3) PCE was released into the environment as a result of these defects.

Pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (42 U.S.C. § 9601 et seq.), the two dry cleaners who operated at the site and the City were found liable.  In allocating the future cleanup costs, the court determined the equitable basis for allocation was the plume itself.  The prior dry cleaners were responsible for the on-site costs and the City was responsible for the off-site costs “because the City’s defective/leaking pipes transported and spread the PCE beyond the property boundaries.”   50% of future costs were assigned to the City.

A review of this case’s Findings of Fact show what expert testimony and evidence is necessary to reach the result reached by this court.  The case is also a warning to municipalities with sewer lines intersecting cleanup sites or what could become cleanup sites.  Do not fail to regularly and properly maintain your sewer systems.


This article has been republished with the permission of the author. It was first published on CSG’s Environmental Law Blog.

About the Author

John A. McKenney Jr. has been a frequent speaker at conferences and continuing legal education programs. For 18 years, John was on the faculty of Seton Hall University School of Law as an Adjunct Professor where he taught New Jersey Environmental Law. He also served as moderator of the ABA satellite seminar on Hazardous Waste and Superfund.

John is a co-editor of the ABA publication, CERCLA Enforcement – A Practitioner’s Compendium of Essential EPA Guidance and Policy Documents and co-authored the Generators’ Obligations chapter of the ABA’s RCRA Practice Manual. The standard form group agreement used at many remedial sites around the nation is based on a version he developed for The Information Network for Superfund Settlements.

U.S.: Lessons Learned from Citizen Suits for Contamination of Property by Industry

by Seth Jaffe, Foley Hoag LLP

Two recent cases illustrate the potential scope of, and the potential limitations on, injunctive relief in RCRA citizen suits. 

First up, Schmucker v. Johnson Controls. Contamination was detected at the Johnson Controls manufacturing facility in Goshen, Indiana.  In response, Johnson Controls performed substantial remediation under the auspices of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s Voluntary Remediation Program.  Nonetheless, significant contamination remains at the site, including a groundwater plume running beneath residences.  In 2011, TCE was detected in indoor air at concentrations exceeding IDEM’s screening level.  Johnson Controls installed vapor mitigation systems at all affected residences, and concentrations were below screening levels in all the residences after installation of the mitigation.

Imminent and substantial endangerment, or not?  In a battle of the experts, the Court denied both sides’ motions for summary judgment.  First, the plaintiff’s expert’s opinion that there was a risk of future exposures, notwithstanding the mitigation, was enough to defeat Johnson Controls’ motion.  The Court did note that:

“Murphy’s law” is not sufficient to establish an endangerment where a party relies only on speculation that mitigation measures might fail.

However, the Court found that the plaintiffs’ expert was not simply speculating.

On the flip side, defendant’s expert said that the mitigation measures were sufficient to eliminate the endangerment.  That was enough to defeat plaintiffs’ motion.

Next up, Lajim v. General Electric.  The facts are somewhat similar to those in Johnson Controls.  There was a long history of industrial use, discovery of a groundwater plume – in this case, impacting municipal water supply wells – and the commencement of significant response actions.  Here, the work was supervised by Illinois EPA, pursuant to a 2010 consent decree.  Here too, nearby plaintiffs were not satisfied with the remedial plan, notwithstanding approval by the state agency overseeing the cleanup.  In another battle of the experts, the District Court denied plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief.  The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.  Here are the highlights:

  • District courts have discretion to deny injunctive relief under RCRA, even where the defendant has been found liable.  “It will usually be the case that injunctive relief is warranted,” but it is not mandatory.
  • RCRA is not a general cleanup statute; injunctive relief is only available where there may be an imminent and substantial endangerment.
  • Where plaintiffs failed, after an evidentiary hearing, to demonstrate that cleanup was necessary beyond that which GE was doing pursuant to the consent decree, no injunction need issue.

I think that there are two lessons from these cases, one substantive and one practical:

  1. RCRA’s citizen suit provision provides plaintiffs with a powerful hammer, but there are limits to the relief that courts will impose, particularly if a defendant is implementing a cleanup under state oversight.
  2. Good lawyering and persuasive experts still really matter.

About the Author

Seth Jaffe is recognized by Chambers USA, The Best Lawyers in America and Massachusetts Super Lawyers as a leading practitioner in environmental compliance and related litigation. He is one of the authors of the Law and the Environment Blog, www.lawandenvironment.com, which provides real-world perspectives on current developments in environmental law and regulation. Seth is a past President of the American College of Environmental Lawyers.

Seth works on a wide range of environmental law issues, representing clients in the permitting/licensing of new facilities and offering ongoing guidance on permitting and enforcement related matters under federal and state Clean Air Acts, Clean Water Acts, RCRA, and TSCA. He also advises on wetlands and waterways regulation. Seth’s clients include electric generating facilities, companies in the printing and chemical industries, and education and health care institutions.

Brownfield Redevelopment in New York City and Community Air Monitoring – What you need to know

Written by Paul R. Pickering, Aeroqual Ltd.

Brownfield cleanup in New York City

As New York City’s need for space grows, existing stock of land must be used more effectively. Brownfield cleanup and redevelopment represents one of the best opportunities to engage communities and reclaim land for development in many cities. In 2018, the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation (MOER) announced 1000×21, the most aggressive land cleanup and revitalization goal of any city in the world. This OneNYCinitiative seeks to remediate and redevelop 1,000 lots in NYC by the end of the de Blasio administration in 2021.


A vacant lot in Mott Haven, NY before remediation. Photo: OneNYC

Remediation air quality challenges

Any time a remediation or construction project involves earth-moving, it has the potential to release particulate (dust) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) contaminants that exist below the surface. VOCs will readily transition to the gaseous, breathable phase, when exposed to air. Particulate emissions must be controlled to prevent impacts to the respiratory system. Negative impacts range from mild lung irritation to chronic lung disease. 

Regulations to protect community

To protect workers and the surrounding community, construction and demolition projects that involve excavation need to follow a stringent Community Air Monitoring Plan(CAMP), as specified by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH). If the excavation activities are occurring on a remediation or cleanup site, additional requirements are outlined in a guidance document known as DER-10. NYSDOH and DER-10 specifically apply to sites in New York. However, agencies and authorities in other states may also recognize these guidelines. They have been known to apply or refer to them for projects in their designated territories.

What is DER-10?

In 2010, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) issued Division of Environmental Remediation (DER)-10 Technical Guidance for Site Investigation and Remediation, known as DER-10. This is the source document the NYSDEC refer to for authority to oversee remediation projects. It was designed to help parties and consultants (environmental and engineering) in developing and implementing investigation and remediation projects at contaminated sites.

DER-10 extensively (over 225 pages) describes the A to Z requirements for remedial site investigations, cleanups, post-cleanup monitoring and site closure. It presents detailed technical guidance for each of the investigative and remedial steps undertaken at contaminated sites. DER-10 covers procedures for assessing the environmental conditions at the site, including air monitoring during remediation activities.

What is CAMP?

Appendix 1A of the DER-10 outlines requirements for the implementation of a CAMP. This air monitoring plan is prescribed by NYSDOH. It involves direct-reading air monitoring instruments placed at defined locations around the perimeter of a remediation, construction or demolition site.

A CAMP requires real-time air monitoring for total VOCs (also referred to as total organic vapors) and PM10 (particulate matter 10 micrometers or less in diameter) at downwind and upwind locations relative to each designated work area when certain activities are in progress at contaminated sites. The CAMP is not intended for use in establishing action levels for worker respiratory protection. Rather, it is intended to protect the downwind community) from potential airborne contaminants released as a direct result of investigative and remedial work activities. The downwind community includes off-site receptors such as residences, businesses, and on-site workers not directly involved with the subject work activities. The specified CAMP action levels require increased monitoring, corrective actions to abate emissions, and/or work shutdown. Additionally, the CAMP helps to confirm that work activities did not spread contamination off-site through the air.

VOC and particulate monitoring

Basic requirements of a CAMP call for real-time air monitoring for VOCs and/or particulate levels at the perimeter of the exclusion zone, or work area. Sites known to be contaminated with heavy metals alone may only require particulate monitoring. If radiological contamination is a concern, additional monitoring requirements may be necessary in consultation with NYSDEC and NYSDOH. The table below summarizes CAMP Monitoring Action Levels for total VOC and particulate monitoring.

CAMP air monitoring equipment

Since the introduction of DER-10 in 2010, sensor-based technologies have reduced the cost of air monitoring and increased efficiency of the implementation of CAMP. Real-time air monitoring solutions are available to fit the budget and complexity requirements of every project. Below is a sampling of equipment options:

Entry Level – Basic environmental dust monitoring kit

Assembled kits, like this Basic Environmental Dust Monitoring Kit from Raeco Rents, are portable and suited to short-term or temporary CAMP. The ensemble includes an off-the-shelf dust monitor, handheld PID monitor for total VOCs, and a cloud-based telemetry system mounted in an environmental enclosure.

Ultimate Flexibility – All-in-one air quality monitor

All-in-one air quality monitors, like the AQS1 and the Dust Sentry from Aeroqual, are highly flexible and defensible, as well as good allrounders for short or long-term CAMP. In addition to the primary particulate fraction PM10, these monitors can also measure PM2.5, PM1 and Total PM. They can also be configured for monitoring total VOCs and NO2 emissions from remediation and construction sites. A robust light-scattering Nephelometer with sharp cut cyclone is integrated with a PID-based VOC analyzer module (or GSE-based NO2 gas module), Cloud telemetry platform, air quality software, and optional plug-and-play weather and noise sensors. Trigger alerts are programmable for SMS and email notifications, or can be used to activate an external VOC canister sample collection for speciated analysis according to EPA Method TO-15.

The Rolls Royce – GC-based perimeter air monitoring station

Perimeter air monitoring stations, like the AirLogics Classic 2, contain analytical, climatic, and communications instrumentation. This equipment includes: a gas chromatograph (GC) to measure specific VOCs, a respirable particulate meter to measure dust levels, shelter heaters and air conditioners, and a radio-based data acquisition system. These systems were originally developed for use in the cleanup of former manufactured gas plant (MGP) sites.

Weather monitoring

DER-10 guidelines require daily measurement of wind speed and direction, temperature, barometric pressure, and relative humidity, to establish background weather conditions. Wind direction data is used to position the air monitoring equipment in appropriate upwind and downwind locations.

The evaluation of weather conditions is also necessary for proper fugitive dust control. When extreme wind conditions make dust control ineffective, remedial actions may need to be suspended. There may be situations that require fugitive dust suppression and particulate monitoring requirements with more stringent action levels.

Additional monitoring

Under some circumstances, the contaminant concentration and/or toxicity may require additional monitoring to protect site personnel and the community. Additional integrated sampling and chemical analysis of the dust may be required. This must be evaluated when a Health and Safety Plan (HASP), is developed. Appropriate suppression and monitoring requirements are established for protection of people’s health and the environment.

Reporting

All recorded monitoring data is downloaded and field logged daily, including Action Limit Reports (if any) and daily CAMP monitoring location plans. Records are required to be maintained onsite for NYSDEC and NYSDOH to review. A description of the CAMP-related activities is also included in a monthly progress report submitted to the NYSDEC. The overall report submitted to the NYSDEC should include all CAMP monitoring records. If site works are stopped due to inability to control fugitive emissions to below the action limit, the NYSDEC is to be notified within twenty-four hours of the work stoppage.

For a real-life example of air monitoring at a remediation site please read my blog about the pilot cleanup of the Gowanus Canal, NY.

What CAMP solutions does Aeroqual offer?

Aeroqual’s Dust Sentry and AQS1 are flexible air monitoring platforms used by air quality professionals, and environmental and geotechnical consultants, for community air monitoring plans on remediation sites. We help environmental consultants deliver defensible data on projects by providing cost-effective and reliable instrumentation. For insights on the latest air monitoring trends at construction sites please read our blog about measuring NO2 and multiple PM fractions.


About the Author

Paul R. Pickering is the Business Development Director at Aeroqual Ltd., and is located in Auckland, New Zealand. Aeroqual Ltd. is a company that delivers innovative air quality and environmental monitoring solutions. He is passionate about making it easier to measure the air with advanced sensor-based technology. He believes that more relevant information about our environment can help us make better informed decisions, enjoy better quality of life, and make our planet a better home. 

With more oil to be shipped by rail, train derailments show enduring safety gaps

by Mark Winfield and Bruce Campbell, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, Canada

The recent runaway CP Rail train in the Rocky Mountains near Field, B.C., highlighted ongoing gaps in Canada’s railway safety regime, more than five years after the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster that killed 47 residents of the small Québec town.

The British Columbia crash resulted in the deaths of three railway workers and the derailment of 99 grain cars and two locomotives.

In the B.C. accident, the train involved had been parked for two hours on a steep slope without the application of hand brakes in addition to air brakes.

The practice of relying on air brakes to hold trains parked on slopes was permitted by both the company and by Transport Canada rules. Revised operating rules, adopted after the Lac-Mégantic disaster, had not required the application of hand brakes under these circumstances.

The latest accident was one of a rash of high-profile train derailments in Canada since the beginning of 2019. While none compares in magnitude with Lac-Mégantic, they evoke disturbing parallels to that tragedy. Although investigations are ongoing, what we do know raises questions about whether any lessons have in fact been learned from the 2013 disaster.

Now must apply hand brakes

Within days of the B.C. runaway, both CP Rail and Transport Canada mandated the application of hand brakes in addition to air brakes for trains parked on slopes. This after-the-fact measure parallels the action Transport Canada took days after Lac-Mégantic, prohibiting single-person crews, after having granted permission to Montréal Maine and Atlantic Railway to operate its massive oil trains through Eastern Québec with a lone operator.

Furthermore, like the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, existing mechanical problems with the locomotives involved reportedly played a role in the CP Rail derailment, raising questions about the adequacy of oversight with regard to equipment maintenance practices.

Like Lac-Mégantic, worker fatigue may have also played a role in the crash. Despite efforts within Transport Canada to force railways to better manage crew fatigue, railway companies have long resisted. Instead they have taken page out of the tobacco industry playbook by denying inconvenient scientific evidence as “emotional and deceptive rhetoric.”

The situation has prompted the Transportation Safety Board to put fatigue management on its watchlist of risky practices, stating that Transport Canada has been aware of the problem for many years but is continuing to drag its feet.

Oil-by-rail traffic explodes

The implications of the B.C. accident take on additional significance in light of the dramatic growth seen in oil-by-rail traffic in Canada over the past year. Export volumes reached a record 354,000 barrels per day in December 2018, with the vast majority of the oil going to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast and Midwest. These oil tankers potentially being able to derail is a legal claim waiting to happen with the help of a personal injury attorney, compensation could and would be very wholesome.

This development has not gone unnoticed by people living in communities across North America, who are concerned about the growing danger of another disastrous derailment.

The increase in traffic — now bolstered by the Alberta government’s plan to put another 120,000 barrels per day of crude oil on the rails by next year — is occurring at a time when the Transportation Safety Board reported a significant increase in “uncontrolled train movements” during 2014-17 compared to the average of the five years preceding the disaster.


Read more: Technology to prevent rail disasters is in our hands


This is despite the board’s Lac-Mégantic investigation report recommendation that Transport Canada implement additional measures to prevent runaway trains.

Two weeks after the B.C. crash, a CN train carrying crude oil derailed near St. Lazare, Man.; 37 tank cars left the tracks, punctured and partially spilled their contents. The cars were a retrofitted version of the TC-117 model tank car, developed after Lac-Mégantic, intended to prevent spills of dangerous goods. The train was travelling at 49 mph, just under the maximum allowable speed.

Budgets chopped

In the lead-up to the Lac-Mégantic disaster, the Harper government squeezed bothTransport Canada’s rail safety and transportation of dangerous goods oversight budgets. These budgets did not increase significantly after the disaster.

Justin Trudeau’s government pledged additional resources for rail safety oversight. However, Transport Canada’s plans for the coming years show safety budgets falling back to Harper-era levels. It remains to be seen whether these plans will be reversed in the upcoming federal budget.

Safety Management Systems-based approach remains the centrepiece of Canada’s railway safety system. That system been fraught with problems since it was introduced 17 years ago.

It continues to allow rail companies to, in effect, self-regulate, compromising safety when it conflicts with bottom-line priorities. Government officials claim there has been a major increase in the number of Transport Canada rail safety inspectors conducting unannounced, on-site inspections. But the inspectors’ union questions these claims.

If an under-resourced regulator, with a long history of deference to the industry, is unable to fulfil its first-and-foremost obligation to ensure the health and safety of its citizens, the lessons of Lac-Mégantic have still not been learned. The B.C. accident highlights that the window for history to repeat itself remains wide open.


This article is republished with permission. It was first published on The Conversation website.

About the Authors Authors

Mark Winfield is a Professor of Environmental Studies, York University, Canada

Bruce Campbell is an Adjunct professor, York University, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, Canada

Are New United States Regulations Coming for Accidental Releases into Air?

By Louis A. Ferreira, Willa B. Perlmutter, and Guy J. Thompson, Stoel Rives LLP

On February 4, 2019, a federal court ruled that the U.S. Chemical and Safety Hazard Board must issue regulations within one year that set forth reporting requirements for accidental releases of hazardous substances into the ambient air. This requirement has been part of the Board’s statutory mandate since its inception in 1990 pursuant to Section 112(r)(6)(C)(iii) of the Clean Air Act (“CAA”). Nevertheless, the Board has never issued any such regulations.

Four non-profit groups and one individual filed a one-count complaint against the Board, seeking declaratory relief and an injunction to compel the Board to promulgate reporting requirements as required by the CAA. Plaintiffs claimed that the Board had violated the Administrative Procedure Act by not issuing any regulations. Plaintiffs further asserted the lack of reporting requirements have impaired their respective abilities to collect information that would help prevent future releases and the harm caused from such releases.

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia agreed with the plaintiffs and ruled that the Board must issue regulations within one year. In reaching its decision, the Court rejected the Board’s defenses that the delay in promulgating regulations was reasonable given the Board’s limited resources, small staff size, and other required functions. “[I]f that is the case,” the Court said, “the solution to its resource constraints is not to ignore a congressional directive[,] [i]t is to return to Congress and ask for relief from the statutory requirement.” The case is Air Alliance Houston, et al. v. U.S. Chem. & Safety Hazard Investigation Bd., D.D.C., No. 17-cv-02608, February 4, 2019.

The Court’s decision appears to follow a similar one issued in August 2018 in which some of the same plaintiffs brought a complaint against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In that case, the plaintiffs petitioned the D.C. Court of Appeals for review of the EPA’s decision to delay for 20 months the effective date of a rule designed to promote accident safety and enhance the emergency response requirements for chemical releases. The Court rejected all of EPA’s defenses justifying the delay in a strongly-worded opinion that held the agency strictly to the letter of the CAA. That case is Air Alliance Houston, et al. v. EPA, 906 F.3d 1049 (D.C. Cir. 2018).

The same directness is evident in this recent decision.

Ultimately, the practical effect of the ruling is not clear. There are already laws in place that require companies to report accidental releases to state and federal authorities. It is possible the Board will promulgate regulations that align with its current practice of deferring reporting requirements to other agencies. If the Board took that approach, there likely would not be a noticeable difference in reporting requirements from the current practice.

On the other hand, the two recent decisions discussed above suggest that a trend may be forming in which the courts are pushing back when the government steps off its clear statutory path.


This article has been republished with the permission of the authors. The original post of this article can be found on the Stoel Rivers LLP website.

About the Authors

Lou Ferreira is a senior partner with more than 27 years of complex trial experience.  His practice focuses on commercial litigation, insurance coverage and environmental, safety & health issues.  A seasoned litigator, Lou has significant experience in high-stakes litigation including successfully defending a class action filed against a utility by residents of a town in Washington asserting that the utility was liable for flooding as a result of the operations of its upstream dams.  Lou  successfully defended a port in Washington from a $20 million lawsuit brought by developers alleging breach of contract to develop a large mixed-use waterfront project on the Columbia River. 

Willa Perlmutter has more than 30 years of experience as a litigator, focusing for the last 20 on defending mine operators across all sectors of the industry in administrative enforcement proceedings brought by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) for alleged violations of the Mine Act.  In addition, she regularly counsels clients on a broad range of issues that affect their mining operations, from personnel policies and actions to compliance with a broad range of federal statutes. Willa regularly defends companies and individuals facing investigations and formal legal proceedings for alleged safety and health violations under both the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 and the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, whether those arise out of a catastrophic event, such as an accident, or in the course of a regular inspection by MSHA or Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). She has successfully defended a number of mining companies in whistleblower cases brought under the Mine Act.

Guy Thompson is a litigator and advisor on a wide-range of insurance matters. His practice focuses on insurance coverage litigation, including natural resources/environmental insurance coverage, and a wide variety of risk management issues. Guy helps policyholders obtain the recovery they deserve from their insurers and has helped recover millions of dollars from insurance companies for his clients. Guy is skilled at getting insurance carriers to cooperate in paying claims and often secures settlements with insurers without the need for litigation. Recently, he helped recover over $1.65 million from multiple insurance carriers for a Portland company that was required to perform environmental cleanup by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

How the SCC Decision in Redwater Case could Change the Role of Environmental Orders in Ontario Insolvency Proceedings

by Erin D Farrell, Jessica Bioly and Haddon Murray, Gowlings

1. Introduction

The potential conflict between federal insolvency law and provincial environmental law that came to a head in Orphan Well Association v Grant Thornton Ltd (“Redwater“) was settled by the Supreme Court of Canada (the “SCC“) on January 31, 2019 in a split 5-2 decision.[1] Specifically, Redwater addresses whether environmental orders are binding on an insolvent estate, or if a trustee can disclaim unprofitable lands subject to the environmental orders, treating the regulator as an unsecured creditor.

In a contested decision, the SCC considered a test it had previously established to determine whether a regulatory order was enforceable against the debtor’s estate as opposed to merely constituting a provable claim in the bankruptcy (the “Abitibi  Test“, described below). If a regulatory order was found to meet theAbitibi Test and therefore found to be a claim provable in bankruptcy, then it would be stayed and treated as any other unsecured debt. The SCC in Redwater determined that the Abitibi Test had been interpreted too broadly by the lower courts, therefore narrowing the circumstances where such an order would be reduced to a claim provable in bankruptcy. The majority of the SCC in Redwater significantly expanded the circumstances in which costly end-of-life environmental or other regulatory orders will effectively trump secured and other creditors in an insolvency. The SCC further held that the regulator should not be characterized as acting as a “creditor” in this case where the regulator sought to enforce an insolvent company’s end of life obligations and consequently does not have a claim provable in bankruptcy.

In arriving at its decision, the SCC held that there was no conflict between the applicable provisions of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, RSC 1985, c B-3 (“BIA“) [2] and Alberta’s environmental regulatory statutes that would trigger the doctrine of federal paramountcy. The SCC overturned the decisions of both the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench[3] and the majority of the Alberta Court of Appeal,[4] both of which held that there was a conflict between the applicable federal and provincial acts that found that provincial environmental law, to the extent that it created a practical super‑priority in favour of the regulator, to be inoperative.

The Attorney General of Ontario intervened in the case and supported the Alberta regulator’s position that its environmental orders should continue to operate in bankruptcy. Although Ontario’s submissions focused on its provincial oil and gas industry, all corporations that could be subject to regulatory orders, including owners and operators of contaminated lands, may be affected.

The decision will have serious consequences for creditors, many of whom are innocent suppliers and investors, but will be left paying for environmental remediation.

2. Background

Redwater Energy Corporation (“REC“) was an oil and gas company operating in Alberta. The Alberta oil and gas industry is regulated by the Alberta Energy Regulator (“AER“). The AER regulates the oil and gas industry by issuing licenses for each oil and gas well or pipeline, and then by imposing on each licensee conditions that control all aspects of the operation, disposition and eventual shutting-in of the licensed property.[5] It issues licenses, approvals, permits, orders, decisions and directions pursuant to authority derived from statutes such as the Oil and Gas Conservation Act (“OGCA“) and the Pipeline Act (“PA“).[6]

In Alberta non-producing wells do not need to be “abandoned”[7] (plugged) and reclaimed[8] (remediated) within any set timeframe.[9] The many non-producing wells often sit for years or even decades.[10] They are also commonly transferred to subsequent licensees, who may or may not be sufficiently capitalized to perform their end‑of‑life obligations. Like many oil and gas companies ceasing operations, REC held licenses for both non-producing oil and gas wells.

In the Redwater case, REC became insolvent and was put into receivership by its senior secured creditor, ATB Financial. Upon learning of REC’s receivership, the AER took view that:

  1. it was not a creditor;
  2. environmental obligations were not “claims provable in bankruptcy”, and that accordingly the environmental obligations of REC were unaffected by the insolvency proceedings;
  3. the receiver was legally obliged to discharge REC’s environmental obligations “prior to distributing any funds . . . to creditors, secured or otherwise”; and
  4. it would not approve any transfers of REC’s (valuable) oil and gas assets unless it was satisfied that both the transferor and transferee would be in a position to fulfill all environmental obligations and the proceeds of sale were paid to the AER as security for the end‑of‑life obligations.

At the time of the receivership, REC had both producing and non-producing wells. The receiver concluded that the cost of the end-of-life obligations for the non-producing wells would likely exceed the sale proceeds of the producing wells. As such, the receiver renounced or disclaimed the non-producing wells pursuant to s. 14.06(4) of the BIA, taking possession and control of only the productive wells. Nonetheless, the AER issued orders requiring REC to abandon and reclaim, “for environmental and public safety reasons”, the non-producing assets that the receiver had renounced.[11] Subsequently, REC was assigned to bankruptcy and the receiver was appointed as the bankruptcy trustee. The trustee took the position that, as a result of the disclaimer, it had no obligation to comply with the AER’s orders in relation to the renounced wells and attempted to maximize recovery for creditors through sale of the profitable wells.

The AER, along with the Orphan Well Association, a non-profit organization operating under authority delegated by the AER,[12] sought a declaration that the trustee’s disclaimer was void, and an order compelling compliance by the trustee with the abandonment and remediation orders issued by the AER. The AER’s position was, in essence, that the environmental orders were regulatory in nature and continued to bind the trustee during the bankruptcy notwithstanding the consequences this may have for the bankrupt’s creditors. The trustee brought a cross-application for approval of the sale of assets, and a ruling on the constitutionality of the AER’s position.

The main constitutional issue was whether the AER’s abandonment orders and certain provisions of Alberta’s applicable environmental legislation conflicted with the federal BIA – which would result in certain provisions of the provincial environmental legislation being held in abeyance and the BIA overriding.

In order to answer this question, the SCC considered the following issues:

  1. whether disclaiming property under s. 14.06(4)(b)(ii) of the BIA has the effect of removing the obligation to comply with the order from the bankrupt estate, or simply eliminating the trustee’s personal liability in respect of the order; and
  2. whether environmental orders are provable claims in an insolvency proceeding. If they are, then the environmental order is treated like any other claim in the proceeding – the order is stayed and it generally ranks as an unsecured claim (except for certain statutory security interests). The alternative is that the environmental order is considered as a regulatory obligation that continues to be enforceable during the insolvency proceeding and consequently, effectively has priority over all other claims and, in the case of a restructuring, continues after the restructuring.[13]

The trustee in Redwater argued that (a) while the estate would continue to be liable for the end‑of‑life obligations associated with disclaimed property, the trustee would not be obliged to perform them, and (b) the environmental orders were properly characterized as provable claims and the regulator was attempting to defeat the priority scheme set out in the BIA. For both of these reasons the trustee argued that the provincial statutes that gave rise to the environmental orders conflicted with the federal BIA, and accordingly the federal law was paramount.

3. The Abitibi Test

The characterization of environmental obligations as provable claims has previously been considered by the Supreme Court of Canada. In Newfoundland and Labrador v. AbitibiBowater Inc., (“AbitibiBowater“)the SCC considered whether certain orders issued under Newfoundland’s Environmental Protection Actwere “claims” for the purpose of the CCAA.[14] The SCC established a three-part test for whether a regulatory obligation is a provable claim in an insolvency proceeding:[15]

  1. there must be a debt, liability or obligation to a creditor,
  2. it must be incurred before the debtor’s bankruptcy, and
  3. it must be possible to attach a monetary value to the debt, liability or obligation.

Meeting the test would mean that a regulatory order would be stayed and treated the same as other unsecured debts.

The Abitibi Test has been applied by the Ontario Court of Appeal in Nortel Networks Corp. (Re),[16](Nortel) and Northstar Aerospace, Inc. (Re) (“Northstar“)[17]. Both cases concerned clean-up orders for legacy contaminated sites owned by insolvent corporations.

In Nortel, the Ministry of the Environment (“Ministry“)[18] issued remediation orders after the corporation’s CCAA filing. These orders dealt with a number of properties and would have required certain of the debtor companies (referred to collectively as “Nortel“) to expend approximately $18 million to remediate the properties. Nortel brought a motion before the CCAA judge seeking a declaration that the Ministry orders were monetary in nature and thus, were stayed by the CCAA proceedings, meaning it could cease complying with the orders. It also sought a declaration that the Ministry’s claims had to be dealt with as part of the CCAA. The Ontario Court of Appeal found that the key issue was the third branch of the Abitibi Test; specifically, the Court of Appeal held that in order for a monetary value to be attached to the debt, it had to be sufficiently certain that the Ministry would perform the remediation work itself and then have a claim for indemnification against Nortel. With the exception of one property, the Court of Appeal found it was not sufficiently certain the Ministry would perform the remediation itself and thus, the claim was not stayed and the regulatory orders had to be complied with, depleting assets from the estate that would otherwise be paid to Nortel’s creditors.

By contrast, in Northstar, the Ontario Court of Appeal found it was sufficiently certain that the Ministry would perform the remediation work itself, given that the Ministry had already taken steps towards conducting the remediation itself, there was no funding available to the debtor or the trustee to do remediation work, and there were no other parties who could be required to perform the work. Consequently, the Ministry’s order was found to be a provable claim that was stayed by the insolvency proceeding – to be determined and paid in the same manner as all other creditors of the estate. Subsequently, the Ministry chose to pursue Northstar’s directors and officers personally.

4. Judicial History

Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta

In his May 19, 2016 decision (the “Chambers Decision“), Chief Justice Wittmann of the Alberta Court Queen’s Bench found that there was a conflict between the provincial and federal laws. Specifically, he found that requiring a trustee to comply with abandonment orders issued pursuant to provincial legislation in relation to renounced licensed assets triggered the doctrine of federal paramountcy as there was an operational conflict between s. 14.06(4) of BIA and the provincial law. The obligation to comply with the AER orders required payment of, or the posting of security for, the abandonment costs to the AER in priority to all others, including secured creditors. This frustrated the primary purposes of the BIA, as its distribution scheme would be upset.

Chief Justice Wittman stated that it was conceded by the OWA and AER that the first and second branches of the Abitibi Test were met.[19] However, the AER argued that the fact that there were monetary consequences to its orders was not determinative of the third branch of the test.[20] Chief Justice Wittman disagreed and found that there was no funding for the receiver to carry out the work, the receiver was not in possession of the renounced properties and therefore could not carry out the work, and that there were no other parties who could be required to carry out the work. Further, he found either the AER or OWA would probably carry out the work, and therefore that, although not expressed in monetary terms, the AER orders were “intrinsically financial,”[21] and sufficiently certain.[22] If the regulator’s actions indicate that, in substance, it is asserting a provable claim within the meaning of federal legislation, then that claim can be subjected to the insolvency process.[23]

Alberta Court of Appeal

The majority of the Court of Appeal (consisting of the Honourable Mr. Justice Frans Slatter and the Honourable Madam Justice Frederica Schutz) affirmed the Chambers Decision. In considering the constitutional issues, the Alberta Court of Appeal stated that under the principle of cooperative federalism, the court will first attempt to interpret and apply the two provisions in harmony with each other, and only if that fails will paramountcy be invoked.[24] However, the majority found that the regulatory orders of the AER were in operational conflict with section 14.06 of the BIA and that the underlying sections of the OGCA and PA frustrated the federal purpose of the BIA in managing the winding up of insolvent corporations.

The majority held that a trustee is entitled to abandon or renounce oil and gas assets encumbered with environmental obligations and that the AER’s demand for security for remediation diverted value from the bankrupt estate. This was reason enough to classify the claims of the AER as financial in nature, thereby making it a “creditor” whose claims are subject to the priorities prescribed by the BIA.

As it did for the Chambers hearing, AER conceded that the first two branches of the Abitibi Test were met: an obligation existed to the AER as a creditor, and the obligation had arisen prior to the conclusion of the insolvency.[25] Therefore the only real issue was the third branch.

In finding that the regulator’s orders constituted a claim provable in bankruptcy, the majority applied the Abitibi Test and found that the effect of the abandonment orders was to elevate the priority of environmental claims and upset “the priorities of the BIA.”

The majority found that AER’s claims met the test for a provable claim in s. 14.06 of the BIA and did not have higher or special “super priority” over the claims of secured creditors. Under the proper interpretation of the BIA, the AER could not insist that substantial parts of the bankrupt estate be set aside in satisfaction of the environmental claims in super priority over the claims of secured creditors.

In her dissent, The Honourable Madam Justice Sheilah Martin, prior to her elevation to the Supreme Court of Canada, disagreed with the majority, found no conflict between the legislation, and noted that the environment was an area that called for “co-operative federalism.”[26] Justice Martin noted that that the “cradle to grave” approach to regulation now stopped at “insolvency,” moving the “polluter pays” policy to a “third party pays” system. Justice Martin found that license obligations are public duties, not debts owed to the regulator. Abandonment and reclamation are necessary for public health and safety, reducing the environmental impact of drilling activities, and ensuring private landowners are not left with unused and potentially unsafe well sites on their land.

Ultimately, Justice Martin held that there was no conflict between the legislative schemes and that both schemes could continue to co-exist. In examining the third branch of the Abitibi Test, Justice Martin distinguished the nature of the remedial work being performed in Redwater from AbitibiBowaterNorteland Northstar:[27]

…. During the course of its operations, various contaminants spilled on the lands owned by Abitibi and the government issued orders and tried to have those lands transferred to the government through legislation. As the Supreme Court noted, when such conditions arise, “regulatory bodies sometimes have to perform remediation work”. The decisions of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Nortel and Northstar Aerospace Inc., Re, 2013 ONCA 600, 234 A.C.W.S. (3d) 642 (Ont. C.A.), both decided after Abitibi, also dealt with the same type of industrial contamination on land owned by the debtors, and the same kind of clean-up order. Contrast that with the licensing and regulatory regime here. The abandonment obligations are not an unknown or unexpected event; all parties involved know these obligations will arise at the end of the life of the well.

Given the foregoing, Justice Martin found that the third branch of the Abitibi Test had not been made out as there was insufficient certainty that remediation work would be done or that a claim for reimbursement would be made.

In significant contrast to the majority justices and Chief Justice Wittman in the Chambers Decisions, Justice Martin also held that the first branch of the Abitibi Test had also not been met because the regulatory body was not a creditor of the insolvent company.[28] Quoting Laycraft CJA in Northern Badger,[29] Justice Martin held that the cost of abandoning licensed wells “was one of the expenses, inherent in the nature of the properties themselves, taken over for management by the Receiver,” and that the cost was not owed to the regulator, or to the province.

5. The Supreme Court of Canada Decision

The SCC decision was released January 31, 2019. The SCC, split 5:2 in favour of granting the regulator’s appeal. The intervenors supporting the AER and OWA in its arguments included Greenpeace, Ecojustice and the Attorney General of Ontario, among others. The majority decision, penned by Chief Justice Wagner, found:

  • the regulator’s use of its statutory powers did not create a conflict with the BIA so as to trigger the doctrine of federal paramountcy;
  • section 14.06(4) of the BIA permits a trustee to avoid any personal liability in respect of environmental obligations for a property it has disclaimed, however those obligations remain a liability of the insolvent estate; and
  • not all environmental obligations enforced by a regulator will be claims provable in bankruptcy. Further, the regulator’s orders in this case were not claims provable in bankruptcy, and the priority scheme in the BIA was not upended. Thus, no conflict was caused by the trustee’s status as a licensee under Alberta legislation. Alberta’s regulatory regime can coexist with and apply alongside the BIA.

The majority of the SCC also reframed its own Abitibi Test to determine whether a regulator’s action amounts to a claim provable in bankruptcy with respect to the first and third branches of the test.

The first branch of the test requires that there must be a debt, liability or obligation to a “creditor”. The SCC agreed with the regulator and Martin JA and held that the Court of Queen’s Bench and Alberta Court of Appeal (as well as the Ontario Court of Appeal in Nortel) had incorrectly, and overly broadly, interpreted the circumstances in which a regulator will be considered a creditor. The majority rejected the concessions made by the regulator on the creditor issue at the lower courts, noting that “concessions of law are not binding.” In Nortel and Northstar the courts applied the Abitibi Test to find that the first branch of the test was always made out when a regulator exercises its statutory enforcement powers against a debtor. The SCC found that where the regulator acts in a bona fide regulatory capacity in the public interest and for the public good, and is not seeking a pecuniary benefit, it is acting in a regulatory capacity rather than as a creditor. Echoing Justice Martin’s statement, the SCC held that where the public is the beneficiary of the enforcement action (and not the government’s coffers as in AbitibiBowater), the first branch of the test will not be made out. Rather, in Redwater the majority found that the orders were made in the public interest and for the public good. Therefore the regulator was not a creditor of REC as the public was the beneficiary of the environmental obligations. The majority rejected the trustee’s argument that the first “creditor” branch of the Abitibi Test would be satisfied whenever a regulator exercises its enforcement powers against a debtor. The majority instead agreed with the submissions of Ontario that the creditor part of the test would be meaningless if it were not possible for the test to turn on whether a regulator is a creditor of the bankrupt.[30]

The Supreme Court went on to discuss the third branch of the Abitibi Test, or the “sufficiently certain” branch. The majority noted that the regulatory end-of-life obligations did not directly require REC to make a payment to the regulator, but rather obliged REC to “do something”.[31] The majority rejected the characterization of the orders as “intrinsically financial” applied by the majority of the Alberta Court of Appeal, finding that this application would be too broad. This would result in a provable claim being established even where the existence of a monetary claim in bankruptcy was merely speculative.[32] The third branch of the test was the focus of the courts analysis in Nortel and Northstar. The Supreme Court confirmed the approach of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Nortel, finding that ongoing environmental remediation obligations may be reduced to monetary claims only where: (i) the regulator has performed the remediation work and advanced a claim for reimbursement, or (ii) it is sufficiently certain that the province will do the work and seek reimbursement. The Supreme Court stated that Northstar could be distinguished, because in that case the Ministry had already stepped in to conduct the remediation.

In a detailed dissent that is sure to be cited in future cases, Justices Moldaver and Côté found that both an operational conflict and frustration of purpose existed between the provincial legislation and the federal BIA, and thus invoked the doctrine of federal paramountcy. Consistent with the lower court decisions, the dissenting judges found that Alberta’s statutory regime does not recognize the disclaimers by trustees of assets as lawful by virtue of the fact that receivers and trustees are treated by regulators as licensees who cannot disclaim assets. The minority was of the view that, because of the unavoidable conflict the provincial legislation should be held inoperative to the extent that it does not recognize the legal effect of the trustee’s disclaimers. The minority also applied the Abitibi Test and found that, as in the AbitibiBowatercase itself, the regulator was a creditor and “most environmental regulatory bodies can be creditors…and that government entities cannot systematically evade the priority requirements of federal bankruptcy legislation under the guise of enforcing public duties.”[33]

6. Implications for Ontario

Insolvency Proceedings

The Redwater decision has significantly expanded the circumstances in which an environmental order, or any regulatory enforcement action for that matter, will not be provable in an insolvency proceeding. The decision will impact companies with environment liabilities in the following ways:

  • There may be a chilling effect on the availability of financing in industries where environmental liabilities are likely, because secured creditors will take a backseat to environmental liabilities. Lenders may expand environmental due diligence requirements and increasingly demand stricter covenants from businesses regarding the state of environmental liabilities. We may also see a decrease in the number of lenders offering debtor-in-possession loans to fund the insolvency proceedings and ongoing operations of an insolvent company. While these loans were traditionally provided a super-priority charge against the assets of the debtor, it is possible that such a charge would also take a backseat to environmental liabilities.
  • Professionals may begin to demand indemnities for the payment of their fees from creditors before agreeing to insolvency mandates. While trustees are protected from personal liability under subsections 14.06(2) and (4) of the BIA, where environmental liabilities exceed the value of the estate, it is possible, although not clear, that insolvency professionals might not be paid.
  • It may become more challenging to retain key employees during the insolvency period. When a company enters insolvency proceedings it is often important to keep certain key employees working through the insolvency period in order to maximize value and ensure the debtor can be sold as a going concern. In order to retain these employees, it is common in restructuring proceedings (and occasionally in receiverships) to obtain a super-priority charge for a bonus payment plan for key employees (referred to as a KERP) provided they continue to work through the insolvency period. As with the above charges, the ability to retain key employees is brought into question by the possibility that all those funds will be spent complying with environmental orders.

Industries with the Potential for Environmental Liabilities

Anxiety among lenders in Alberta’s oil and gas industry, where the number of non-producing wells is rapidly escalating, could signal rapid market decline. If lenders, given the uncertainty, are unwilling to provide additional credit, many more wells may end up in the orphan system, with fewer industry participants contributing to the fund. Many commentators have noted that as a result of the Redwaterdecision, companies with potential significant environmental liabilities may have difficulty finding new capital or restructuring.

In Ontario, the operator of a well that is no longer producing should plug the well within 12 months after it is taken out of use,[34] and return the well site to its original condition no later than 6 months from the plugging date.[35] There is no such requirement in Alberta, despite proposed legislation. In many industries in Ontario, closure, reclamation and anticipated end-of life remediation obligations are also secured by financial assurance (usually through a letter of credit). For example, mining operations with closure plans or landfills that might require remediation and monitoring upon closure would normally be subject to financial assurance requirements by the regulator. Consequently, even if the business were to become insolvent, the environmental obligations would be secured by financial assurance. In those cases, assuming that the financial assurance numbers accurately capture the risk, lender anxiety should be reduced.  

Contaminated Sites and Brownfield Development

In Ontario, owners and those in management or control (including former owners or those previously in management or control) of an environmentally contaminated or brownfield site, as well as persons who caused or permitted a discharge of a contaminant, may be subject to regulatory orders for both on and off-site work (including investigation, delineation, and in some cases, remediation). The characterization of such environmental orders was litigated in Northstar and Nortel, which involved Ontario properties subject to Ministry orders that were owned or previously owned by insolvent companies.

The outcome of Nortel would likely be the same under the new Redwater decisionThe Supreme Court in Redwater cites the Northstar case in support of the proposition that where the Ministry steps in to conduct remediation, the third branch of the Abitibi Test is made out. However, it is possible that the Supreme Court’s approach to the first branch of the Abitibi Test could mean that in certain circumstances, even where the Ministry has demonstrated that it will conduct the remediation itself, the Ministry is still considered a bona fide regulator and thus, the order would not be a provable claim.

Unless there is legislative change, it is clear that the Redwater decision will have implications on the way that regulatory “clean-up” orders are treated during an insolvency, particularly in cases where the facts fall somewhere between Nortel and Northstar. We expect the Ministry (and other environmental stakeholders) will take the position that, except in unusual circumstances, regulatory orders are not stayed during insolvency and must be complied with before the distribution of the insolvent corporation’s assets to other creditors. Where an insolvent estate does not have significant assets, environmental costs may mean there is nothing left for creditors.

In some cases, the decision may be welcome news to stakeholders such as directors and officers of insolvent companies, other persons who may also be obliged to address the contamination and neighbouring property owners because they will not have to bear the burden of the clean-up. In Northstar,for example, the Ministry pursued the directors and officers personally after the remediation obligations of the company were found to rank alongside the claims of unsecured creditors. For creditors, however, the Redwater decision may reinforce the recent trend in environmental law of displacing polluter pays for “third-party pays”, particularly when that third party has deep pockets.

For corporations that own or operate a number of brownfield properties or have significant historical environmental liability for previous industrial activities, the insolvency calculus may change. Creditors, even secured creditors, are less likely to see full recovery in cases where there is environmental contamination the Ministry wants addressed.

The Redwater decision confirms that the Ministry will not be seen as a creditor where it acts in a regulatory role. However, the Supreme Court’s comments demonstrate that even post-Redwater, if the Ministry steps in to do the work itself, then it becomes a creditor and its order will be relegated to a claim provable in bankruptcy. This leaves the Ministry in a difficult position when requiring clean-up work from a company that may become insolvent. If the risk to human health or the environment is so significant that the Ministry must step in to do the work, the Ministry may prejudice its position in the insolvency. If the Ministry does not take steps to do the work and the corporation becomes insolvent, the estate will have to fund the remediation. This creates a potentially perverse incentive where allowing the risk to remain for the interim ultimately improves the Ministry’s position.

Environmental Receivers

The implications of the Redwater decision will encourage creative solutions to deal with remediation during insolvency proceedings. One such solution is the appointment of an environmental receiver, such as the one used in the Outboard Marine insolvency. In that case, an environmental receiver (an environmental consulting firm) was appointed by the court to manage the fund for remediation and to conduct the Ministry-ordered clean-up during the insolvency process. The receivership order authorized the environmental receiver to implement environmental remediation activities, to retain consultants, to apply for permits, licenses and approvals as may be required, to receive funds from the disbursement receiver, and to disburse funds to pay approved environmental remediation costs. There may be other situations where it would be “just or convenient”[36] to appoint an environmental receiver to address irreparable harm or imminent danger to health, safety, private and public property, wildlife, natural resources and compliance with environmental laws caused by ongoing and historical contamination of source sites.[37]

Appointing an environmental receiver, along with a regular disbursement receiver, to manage remediation in tandem with winding up may also help to balance environmental obligations and creditors. Such a creative solution may only be appropriate when sufficient assets exist and the efficiency or certainty gained will merit the extra administration costs. However, there may be tension between the insolvency process, which has among its goals an expeditious resolution, and environmental remediation, which may require many years of investigation or delineation work before a remedial approach can be pursued.

7. Conclusion

At first glance the Redwater case appears to be good news from both an environmental and cooperative federalism perspective. However, in addition to the lender and insolvency uncertainty in the oil and gas industry noted by many commentators, the Redwater decision may complicate insolvency proceedings in any industry with an inherent environmental impact. While Ontario’s smaller oil and gas extraction industry is regulated differently and may not face the same pressures as the industry in Alberta, the Redwater decision will have legal, economic and environmental implications on owners and users of potentially contaminated property, those helping them wind down operations, and other stakeholders.


[1] Orphan Well Association v. Grant Thornton Ltd., 2019 SCC 5 (“Redwater SCC“) Note that, while this article concerns the impact of the Redwater decision on industrial operations in Ontario, our colleagues in Alberta have written about the impact of the decision from their perspective as counsel for the trustee/respondent on the appeal.

[2] Although Redwater was a bankruptcy and accordingly, the court analyzed the case under the BIA, analogous issues arise with respect to restructurings under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, RCS 1985, c C-36 (“CCAA”). This paper will refer to “insolvency proceedings” generally as proceedings instituted under either act. Note that this relationship is not perfect as there are different purposes for the CCAA as compared to the BIA and accordingly, it is possible that a court would reach a different conclusion with respect to paramountcy under the “frustrating the purpose of the act” branch of the paramountcy test. However, the courts have generally interpreted the statutes harmoniously.

[3] Redwater Energy Corporation (Re) 2016 ABQB 278 (“Chambers Decision“)

[4] Orphan Well Association v Grant Thornton Limited 2017 ABCA 124 (“Redwater ABCA“)

[5] Redwater ABCA at para 11.

[6] Redwater ABCA at paras 11 and 124.

[7] SCC Decision at para 16: Abandonment” refers to “the permanent dismantlement of a well or facility in the manner prescribed by the regulations or rules” made by the Regulator (OGCA, s. 1(1)(a)). Specifically, the abandonment of a well has been defined as “the process of sealing a hole which has been drilled for oil or gas, at the end of its useful life, to render it environmentally safe” (Panamericana de Bienes y Servicios S.A. v. Northern Badger Oil & Gas Ltd., 1991 ABCA 181, 81 Alta. L.R. (2d) 45 (“Northern Badger“), at para. 2). The abandonment of a pipeline refers to its “permanent deactivation . . . in the manner prescribed by the rules” (Pipeline Act, s. 1(1)(a)).

[8] “Reclamation” includes “the removal of equipment or buildings”, “the decontamination of buildings . . . land or water”, and the “stabilization, contouring, maintenance, conditioning or reconstruction of the surface of the land” (EPEA, s. 1(ddd))

[9] See for the following Globe and Mail articles for a discussion of attempts in Western Canada at introducing timelines for cleanup of dormant oil and gas wells: December 13, 2018 “B.C. to be first among western provinces to tackle inactive wells” by Jeff Lewis; and November 30, 2018 “B.C. joins Alberta in pledge to impose cleanup timelines on oil, gas wells” by Jeff Lewis and Renata D’aliesio

[10] As the AG of Ontario noted in its submissions, in Ontario the operator of a non-producing oil or gas well is expected to plug the well (abandon in Alberta) within 12 months after it is taken out of use. [O. Reg. 245/97: Exploration, Drilling and Production under the Oil, Gas and Salt Resources Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. P.12 “O.Reg. 245/97“), s. 19; Oil, Gas and Salt Resources of Ontario, Provincial Operating Standards (“Provincial Standards“), ss. 11.01-11.14.] Operators are also required to return the well site to its original condition no later than 6 months from the plugging date. [Provincial Standards, s. 11.13]. In practice this does not always happen.

[11] Redwater ABCA at para 6.

[12] The Orphan Well Association is funded by a levy imposed by the AER, security deposits that licensees have been required to post, and some limited government funding. ABCA decision at para 22.

[13] In a bankruptcy (or liquidating CCAA), the amount available to regulatory obligations that are in substance provable claims is subject to their priority ranking. Generally, these obligations will be unsecured except to the extent they are secured by a specific charge under section 14.06(7) of the BIA. Previously any regulatory or environmental obligations that were not provable in bankruptcy may continue to exist in theory, but typically the burden of those obligations essentially fell on the government. Accordingly, there is an increased incentive for the regulator to extract whatever value it can from the bankrupt estate during its administration

[14] Newfoundland and Labrador v. AbitibiBowater Inc., [2012] 3 SCR 443, 2012 SCC 67 (“AbitibiBowater“)

[15] Chambers Decision at para 139 citing Newfoundland and Labrador v. AbitibiBowater Inc. 2012 SCC 67.

[16] Nortel Networks Corp. (Re), 2013 ONCA 599 (CanLII), leave to appeal to SCC refused, 35642 (17 April 2014) (“Nortel“)

[17] Northstar Aerospace, Inc. (Re), 2013 ONCA 600 (CanLII) (“Northstar“)

[18] Now knowns as the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks.

[19] Chambers Decision at para 164.

[20] Chambers Decision at para 164.

[21] Chambers Decision at para 173.

[22] Chambers Decision at para 173.

[23] Chambers Decision at para 177.

[24]Redwater ABCA at para 24.

[25] Redwater ABCA para 73.

[26] Redwater ABCA Martin dissent at para 107

[27] Redwater ABCA dissent at paras 178-179

[28] Redwater ABCA dissent at para 185

[29] Panamericana de Bienes y Servicios S.A. v. Northern Badger Oil & Gas Ltd., 1991 ABCA 181, 81 Alta. L.R. (2d) 45, 117 A.R. 44 (Alta. C.A.), leave to appeal denied [1992] 1 S.C.R. (S.C.C.)

[30] Redwater SCC at para 124

[31] Redwater SCC at para 139

[32] Redwater SCC at para 146

[33] Redwater SCC at para 236, citing Deschamps J. in AbitibiBowater at para 27.

[34] O.Reg. 245/97, s. 19; Provincial Standards, ss. 11.01-11.14

[35] Provincial Standards, s. 11.13

[36] See Courts of Justice Act, s. 101 provides that “a receiver or receiver and manager may be appointed by an interlocutory order, where it appears to a judge of the court to be just or convenient to do so.”

[37] Sherry A Kettle “The Creative Receivership” 2016 Annual Review of Insolvency Law 18


NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Information made available on this website in any form is for information purposes only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. You should not rely on, or take or fail to take any action based upon this information. Never disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking legal advice because of something you have read on this website. Gowling WLG professionals will be pleased to discuss resolutions to specific legal concerns you may have.


This article is republished with the permission of the authors. It was first published on the Gowling WLG website.

About the Authors

Erin Farrell is a partner in Gowling WLG’s Toronto office, practising in the firm’s advocacy department. Her practice focuses on a variety of commercial litigation matters, including class actions, product and professional liability, environmental law and municipal liability. Erin represents professionals in both civil and administrative matters, and has defended a number of Canadian and foreign clients in the pharmaceutical, medical device and manufacturing sectors in litigation. She also has extensive experience in the banking sector, advising clients on a range of litigation matters, including a variety of motions and injunctions.

Jessica Boily is an associate in Gowling WLG’s Toronto office, practising in Environmental Law. Jessica works with clients to navigate and resolve complex disputes, including advocating for clients in appeals of environmental orders and civil litigation involving contaminated sites. She guides clients through regulatory inspections and investigations, including defending clients charged with federal, provincial and municipal environmental and regulatory offences. Jessica regularly appears before the Environmental Review Tribunal and all levels of courts in Ontario on motions, applications, trials, hearings, appeals and judicial reviews. She also advocates for her clients in mediations and arbitrations. 

Haddon Murray is an associate lawyer in Gowling WLG’s Toronto office, practising in the areas of restructuring and insolvency and corporate commercial litigation. Haddon represents corporations and their directors on claims ranging from standard litigation to complex restructurings. He has experience appearing before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice – Commercial List, as well as the Ontario Court of Appeal.

How can a multi-gas detection simulator enhance emergency response?

Written by Steven Pike , Argon Electronics

The growth in global industry and manufacturing, together with the ever-present risk of terrorist threat, means emergency personnel are increasingly being required to respond to incidents where there is risk of exposure to explosive atmospheres, low or enriched oxygen, or the presence of lethal toxic vapours.

For response crews arriving on scene there are two essential questions to consider. Is the air safe enough to breathe? And are there any specific toxic gases present?

Gas detection is fundamental to emergency response – and multi-gas detectors are the ideal tools for serving the majority of first responders’ gas detection needs.

Ensuring that crews have access to the right air-monitoring equipment, and that they’re trained in how to use it, is essential for enabling them to make confident decisions in complex scenarios.

In this blog post we provide an overview of the most common types of air-monitoring equipment. And we explore how gas detection simulators can aid in the effectiveness of first response training. 

Portable multi-gas detectors come in a variety of styles and configurations, some with the ability to detect up to six gases at a time. So let’s first consider the four most common types:

Catalytic combustion sensors – in which a heated wire is used to detect a wide variety of flammable gases from natural gas leaks to gasoline spills. In catalytic combustion, power is applied to a special wire coil, in much the same way as a traditional light bulb. Any combustible gas that is exposed to the sensor will react on the wire surface and produce a display reading.

Electrochemical toxic gas sensors – which are used to detect the presence of toxic hazards. An electrochemical sensor is similar in design to a small battery except that the chemical component that is required to produce the electric current is not present in the sensor cell. As the target gas diffuses into the membrane of the sensor, this reacts with chemicals on the sensing electrode to produce an electrical current.

Infrared detectors – commonly used to detect gases that are less reactive and therefore cannot be detected using typical electrochemical cells (such as CO2 or hydrocarbons). Instead of relying on a chemical reaction, infrared sensors determine the amount of gas present by measuring how much light the specific gas absorbs.

Photoionization detectors (PID) – which are used to detect volatile industrial compounds (VOCs) such as methane which can be present during industrial spills. PIDs rely on the specific chemical properties of the VOCs, but instead of absorbing light they use a light source in the UV spectrum to ionize electrons off gas molecules.

Realistic multi-gas detection training

The last decade has seen an increasing demand for advanced training tools to create the highest levels of realism, to reinforce instruction and to enhance student learning.

The use of intelligent simulation technology for chemical warfare agent training is well established. And now that same pool of knowledge and expertise has been applied to training in multi-gas detection.

One such example is Argon Electronics’ Multi-Gas SIM – an App-based simulator that provides instructors with the ability to set up complex multi-gas training scenarios using an android phone.

The simulator is highly configurable which means instructors can set the number of gas sensors they they want their students to view and they can select the type of sensor (be it infrared, electrochemical, PID etc).

They can also program the alarm settings in accordance with the operational detectors in use – so as students move around the training environment, their display readings will adjust to simulate events such as a breached alarm.

The option of an instructor remote means that trainers can remotely monitor student readings and activity, to further stimulate discussion and reinforce knowledge.

For those wanting to implement large-scale releases, the multi-gas simulator can also be used with Argon’s PlumeSM system to provide an enhanced level of realism and a more focused training experience.

Realism, repeatability, safety and efficiency are all key to effective HazMat training.

Simulator detectors tools such as Argon’s Multi-Gas SIM promise to play an invaluable role in aiding trainees’ understanding of gas detection to ensure the right decisions are made, however challenging the scenario.

About the Author

Steven Pike is the Founder and Managing Director of Argon Electronics, a leader in the development and manufacture of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) and hazardous material (HazMat) detector simulators. He is interested in liaising with CBRN professionals and detector manufacturers to develop training simulators as well as CBRN trainers and exercise planners to enhance their capability and improve the quality of CBRN and Hazmat training.