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UBC fined $1.2 million for Release of Ammonia-laden Water

The University of British Columbia and CIMCO Refrigeration were recently sentenced for offences committed in violation of the Canadian Fisheries Act, related to a 2014 ammonia-laden water release that ended up in a tributary of the Fraser River.

CIMCO Refrigeration was fined $800,000 after pleading guilty to depositing or permitting the deposit of a deleterious substance into an area that may enter water frequented by fish.

The University of British Columbia was fined $1.2 million after being found guilty of the several offences including the depositing or permitting the deposit of a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish (Booming Ground Creek) and failing to report the incident in a timely manner.

Screenshot courtesy of Ministry of Justice.

In addition to the fine, the University was also ordered to conduct five years of electronic monitoring of storm-water quality at the outfall where the release occurred.

The University has filed an appeal against these convictions.

Background on the Incident

On September 12, 2014, Environment and Climate Change Canada was contacted regarding an ammonia odour at an outfall ditch connected to Booming Ground Creek in Pacific Spirit Regional Park. The source of ammonia was identified as coming from a refrigeration plant at Thunderbird Arena at the University of British Columbia.

CIMCO Refrigeration and the University were completing repairs of the refrigeration system and used a negative pressure device, known as a Venturi, to purge residual ammonia vapours from the system. The mixture of water and ammonia was then discharged into a storm drain at the arena, which flowed to the outfall, through a ditch, and into Booming Ground Creek, which is a tributary of the Fraser River.

Officers and park rangers found approximately 70 dead fish in Booming Ground Creek in the two days following the discharge. The level of ammonia deposited in the water in the storm drain and ditch was analyzed and found to be harmful to fish.

As a result of this conviction, both organizations’ names will be added to the Environmental Offender’s Registry.

Summary of Environmental Enforcement in British Columbia for 2018

The Province of British Columbia recently released its quarterly environmental enforcement summaries for the third and fourth quarters of 2018 to provide transparency on action taken against polluters.

The summaries detail a total of 1,728 environmental enforcement actions taken by the provincial government during this time period, along with $885,907 in associated penalties and fines.

In total, the Province issued 62 orders, 139 administrative sanctions, 31 court convictions, 14 administrative penalties and 2,412 violation tickets totalling $1,092,465 in fines in 2018. The most frequently contravened acts were the Wildlife Act with 1,040 violations, the Fisheries Act (Canada) with 375 violations and the Off-Road Vehicle Act with 344 violations.

To date, nearly 33,000 enforcement actions have been published in the summary and entered into the ministry’s environmental violations database.

Notable enforcement actions, for this period, include:

  • Radium Resort Group Ltd. was fined $200,000 for introducing waste-causing pollution and open burning of prohibited construction materials. Of that total, $190,000 was directed to Habitat Conservation Trust Fund.
  • Mackenzie Pulp Mill Corporation received penalties of $81,100 for failure to maintain a recovery boiler and failing to comply with permit limits for bivalent sulphur compounds and particulate matter.
  • Canadian Pacific Railway Limited received a penalty for $31,500 for failure to comply with an effluent discharge permit for its rail yard in Golden.
  • Savage Creek Golf Course Ltd. received a penalty of $70,000 for significantly exceeding fill-level maximums, while developing an 18-hole Richmond golf course expansion in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

In addition, B.C. conservation officers issued 95 violation tickets related to activities that could spark a wildfire in the third quarter of 2018. The Province has taken a strong stance to protect forests and communities in the face of one of the worst fire seasons in British Columbia’s history, with more than 1.3 million hectares burned. Fines for these violations were $1,150 each and totaled $108,900 during this same period.

To view the full quarterly environmental enforcement summary, visit British Columbia Natural Resource Compliance & Enforcement website.

British Columbia’s New Groundwater Protection Model

The British Columbia Ministry of Environmental Protection and Sustainability recently posted a renewed version of the Province’s Groundwater Protection Model (GPM). The latest model version has been posted to the ministry’s webpage at: Policies & Standards – Province of British Columbia. Users will need to download the new model version to conduct calculations under Protocol 2 – Site-Specific Numerical Soil Standards (SSS) and Protocol 13 – Screening Level Risk Assessment.

Questions regarding the GPM and associated Technical Guidance 13 should be directed to George.Szefer@gov.bc.ca andAnnette.Mortensen@gov.bc.ca.

Also, the B.C. Environment Ministry has posted a draft version of seventeen new analytical methods for public comment. The analytical methods can be found at “Methods Posted for Review”.

Public comment on the new methods will be accepted until June 17, 2019. All public comments should be direct to  Joyce Austin, Senior Provincial Laboratory Specialist, Knowledge Management Branch at Joyce.Austin@gov.bc.ca.

Technical questions regarding the proposed new methods should be directed to Mark Hugdahl (BCELTAC Chair) atMark.Hugdahl@alsglobal.com.

Environmental Liability Risk Faced by Directors of Dissolved Companies – Getting around the Gehring Defence

Written by Una Rodaja, Harper Grey LLP

Once upon a time, you were a director of a company that owned a parcel of land in the Greater Vancouver area.  A dry-cleaner and an auto-repair shop operated on the property, but you were not too concerned about environmental liability.  This was the 80s after all and the rent was good!  Your tenants caused some environmental contamination, which you addressed when your company sold the site in 1990.  You dissolved your company a year later and forgot all about it.

The property is now owned by a developer who is seeking to build a residential tower on the property.  To do so, the developer is required to investigate and remediate contamination that remained on the property after your company sold it.  Standards have changed and the limited remediation your company did years ago no longer meets the applicable standards.  Your old tenants (both sole proprietorships) are long gone and the developer is seeking to hold you personally liable for the costs of remediation.  You did not personally operate on or own the property, so are you really at risk?  A recent BC Supreme Court case says you are.  Here we explain how and why.

Directors of existing corporations are “responsible persons”

Under BC’s Environmental Management Act[1], a director or officer of a company that owns or operates on, or has historically owned or operated on, a contaminated site is a “person responsible for remediation” of that site simply by virtue of their position with the company.[2]  Such directors and officers can be liable to pay reasonable costs of remediation incurred by anyone in respect of the site owned or operated on by their company, if they authorized, permitted or acquiesced to the activity that gave rise to the cost of remediation.[3]

Directors of dissolved corporations are not “responsible persons”

Although the language establishing the categories of “responsible persons” under BC law is very broad, it is not without limit.  For example, it does not include “persons” who have ceased to exist, such as dissolved corporations.  This was made clear by the BC Supreme Court in a seminal decision called Gehring[4].  The case has undoubtedly motivated many corporate dissolutions by directors and officers seeking to shield themselves from personal liability for contaminated sites owned or operated on by the companies they served.

Dissolved companies can be restored – then what?

However, in the recent decision of the BC Supreme Court in Foster v. Tundra Turbos Inc.[5], a director of a long-dissolved corporation that owned and operated on contaminated land faced exposure in an action to recover environmental remediation costs by virtue of an application to restore the company to the corporate registry.  The company in question, Tundra Turbos Inc., was incorporated in 1978, and was dissolved in 2000.  Prior to its dissolution, it had a single director, one Mr. Clarke. The Plaintiff sought to hold Mr. Clarke liable for the costs of remediation incurred in respect of the property, some 17 years after Tundra had dissolved.  The question before the court was whether it was appropriate to restore Tundra and reconstitute Mr. Clarke’s directorship to make it possible for Tundra and Mr. Clarke to be liable for the costs incurred by the Plaintiff in remediating the property owned by Tundra in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Tundra and Mr. Clarke presented several arguments against the restoration, including that Mr. Clarke would lose the Gehring defence, a substantive right, and that Tundra’s records pertaining to its operations at the property were destroyed, given the length of time involved.  The court rejected these arguments and ordered the restoration.

In the court’s view, there was nothing inherently unfair in the fact that companies and directors may be exposed to liability under BC’s environmental legislation many years after their association with a contaminated property ended.  Further, the right of a company and its directors to avoid liabilities for which they would have been exposed but for the dissolution is not the kind of right protected by legislation.  In fact, a legitimate purpose of restoring a company is to facilitate the imposition of such liabilities.  While destruction of the dissolved company’s records may, in certain circumstances, result in the court rejecting an application to restore, in Tundra’s case there was no prejudice arising from the loss of records because it was clear, on the facts, that had Tundra not been dissolved, it would have been responsible for the costs of remediation.  If anything, the lost records caused more prejudice to the Plaintiff than Tundra’s director, Mr. Clarke, who had personal knowledge of Tundra’s activities on the site.

In addition, the fact that Mr. Clarke could potentially face personal liability even without Tundra being restored (on the basis that he personally had the right to control, was in control of or responsible for any operation on the site in question) did not have a bearing on the restoration application.  The court recognized that it was easier to hold Mr. Clarke liable if he was responsible solely by virtue of his status as director, which could only be done if the company was restored.

Implications of the Tundra Decision

The Tundra case is an important example of creative counsel work to get around the Gehringdefence.  However, notwithstanding the outcome in that case, there are arguments to be made in future cases to avoid the restoration and, ultimately, responsible persons status for the director in question.  Existence of a limitation defence and loss of evidence that would assist in the defence of the director in question, or unreasonable delay of the Plaintiff in bringing the restoration application, may well result in the application being denied.

For lawyers advancing cost recovery claims, the Tundra case is a good reminder of the need to look at dissolved corporations and their directors and officers, and the need to apply for restoration, in a timely fashion.  For those defending these claims, and restoration applications, finding prejudice, beyond the mere loss of the Gehring defence, will be key.

[1] S.B.C. 2003, c. 53 (“EMA”)

[2] EMA, ss. 39(1), 45

[3] EMA, ss. 47(5); Contaminated Sites Regulation, s. 35(4)

[4] Gehring v. Chevron Canada Ltd., 2006 BCSC 1639, para. 55

[5] Foster v. Tundra Turbos Inc., 2018 BCSC 563

About the Author

Una Rodaja is a partner in Harper Grey’s Commercial Litigation and Environmental Regulation & Disputes practice groups. Una frequently lectures on various aspects of contaminated sites law for the Pacific Business and Law Institute, BC Environmental Industry Association, the Environmental Managers Association, and the BC Continuing Legal Education Society.  She is the co-author of BC Environmental Management Legislation and Commentaryand the recipient of the 2017 Lexpert® Leading Lawyers Under 40 award. Una is recognized by the 2018 Canadian Legal Lexpert® Directory as a Leading Lawyer to Watch in the area of corporate commercial litigation and by Benchmark Canada® as a Future Litigation Star. She has also been recognized by Best Lawyers® in Canada 2019 as a “Leading Lawyer in the area of Environmental Law.

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.

British Columbia: Invitation to Participate: Land Remediation Client Survey

The British Columbia Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy is requesting the assistance on B.C. environmental professionals to complete a survey regarding the suite of contaminated site services provided by the Land Remediation Section.  The survey is part of an internal Ministry effort to examine and evaluate the ways in which contaminated sites services are provided in support of administering the Environmental Management Act and Contaminated Sites Regulation, and feedback will inform efforts to improve the client experience in obtaining these services.

The survey takes approximately 10 minutes to complete, allowing for more or less time depending on how many or few contaminated sites services you use. The survey is open for approximately 6 weeks, and will close on September 5, 2018.

Questions regarding the survey can be forwarded to site@gov.bc.ca.

 

Snapshot of the Canadian Brownfields Programs

As reported by Don Proctor in The Daily Commercial News, the federal government has an important role to play in supporting brownfield development, suggests a recent report authored by third-year undergraduate Ryerson University students working on behalf of the Canadian Brownfields Network (CBN).

“There is a sense among industry professionals and academics that the industry as a whole has not progressed as much as it should,” said one of the students, David Sturgeon, at the CBN’s annual conference held recently at the downtown Toronto university campus.

Map of Brownfield Sites in Regina, Saskatchewan

The students conducted a broad snapshot of federal brownfield programs, highlighting cleanup and best practices.

Sturgeon said the student team organized a three-tier rating scoresheet for each province’s progress on brownfields. B.C., Ontario and Quebec got the highest marks. Quebec is a leader because of its incentives-based cleanup programs. One initiative offers 70 per cent funding for onsite remediation work.

Quebec also has an accessible and up-to-date brownfield site inventory, which is a step ahead of other provinces, Sturgeon told delegates.

While the country’s three most populous provinces scored high, the students ranked Alberta lower down, closer to the middle tier.

“It (the Alberta government) has made quite a bit of progress towards cleanup in the last couple of decades,” Sturgeon said. “But where they struggle is helping developers to act sooner than later on idle or vacant contaminated sites.”

The student team was led by Chris De Sousa, the vice-president of the CBN and a professor at the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University. De Sousa said the study compiled extensive information on brownfields from federal, provincial and territorial governments. Also reviewed were provincial stakeholder groups and comparisons were made with the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

Reanne Ridsdale, a Ryerson PhD student, conducted research into actual practice versus the objectives outlined in the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE), founded in the late 1980s. For a survey of about 6,500 brownfield remediated sites across Canada, Ridsdale polled 80 participants, including environmental consultants, government officials, several lawyers and financiers.

Eighty-five per cent of those polled said brownfields were a medium to high priority in their organization.

She said 59 of the 80 respondents indicated Canada would benefit from a national fund for brownfield redevelopment. The top three developmental barriers indicated by respondents deal with remediation costs and lack of information available on site conditions, Ridsdale said.

The survey also supported the CBN as a national organization but some respondents were negative because the CBN does not receive federal funding so its scope is limited.

“We are a little bit eastern-centric,” which is probably because of the lack of funding, Ridsdale told delegates, adding the survey results will be published as part of a white paper this summer.

Angus Ross, chairman of L and A Concepts, chaired two government task forces on brownfields, including one that created the National Brownfield Redevelopment Strategy for Canada in 2003. The findings were not the last word on brownfields “but they did a tremendous job in kickstarting the entire brownfield file in Canada,” he said.

Ross, who was appointed by the federal government in 1996 to head the NRTEE and in 2004 to chair the CBN’s advisory panel, said brownfields became “a household word” in the early 2000s through media reports on the NRTEE.

“We got very immediate provincial and municipal buy-in,” he told delegates at the conference.

Hamilton Waterfront

BCEIA 2018 Environment Industry Guide Now Available

The eighth edition of the British Columbia Environment Industry Guide is your doorway to an industry sector that is growing faster than the economy as a whole – a sector full of opportunity for a new generation of highly skilled and educated workers.

Our industry provides the services and support needed to protect our natural and social environments in a period of rapid expansion.

Download the pdf version here or request a copy be mailed to you by contacting Kate MacDonald at info@bceia.com.

BC Ministry of the Environment: Staffing Announcement

The British Columbia Environment Ministry recently announced that Danielle Grbavac has been named as as Director, Land Remediation within the Environmental Emergencies and Land Remediation Branch, Environmental Protection Division, Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

 

Danielle has 15 years of experience working in environmental science, including marine geoscience, coastal geomorphology, climate change and most recently contaminated sites, both for the provincial and federal governments. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Geography (hons) from the University of Victoria and a Master of Science in Environmental Geomorphology from the University of Oxford. She has also completed graduate level studies in public administration from the University of Victoria.

Before joining the BC public service, Danielle worked as a marine geoscientist for the Geological Survey of Canada. Since joining the ministry she has worked on regulatory development in the Climate Action Secretariat and issues management for BC Parks and the Conservation Officer Service. She joined the Land Remediation Section in 2015, as Operations Manager, leading a diverse team of professionals responsible for oversight of high risk site classification and site identification, as well as the development of policy for legislative and regulatory change and related guidance for BC’s site remediation program. Additionally, Danielle has held an associate faculty position at Royal Roads University for nearly a decade teaching in the School of Environment and Sustainability and the International Study Centre.

Danielle brings a wealth of knowledge and background, and great interpersonal skills to her new role. She is looking forward to identifying priorities for contaminated sites work after the recent standards updates in the Stage 10 & 11 Contaminated Sites Regulation amendments in November 2017. She intends to maintain and strengthen the ministry’s relationships with its partners and stakeholders within the contaminated sites community.

New spill reporting, response and recovery requirements in British Columbia

As reported by Norton Rose Fulbright, the Province of British Columbia recently brought into force a new land-based spills regime and three new regulations requiring transporters of liquid petroleum products to have provincial spill response plans, to test such plans and to report and clean up spills. The new regulations apply to two categories of people:

  • “regulated persons,” which are rail and highway transporters in possession, charge or control of 10,000 litres (62.898 barrels) or more of liquid petroleum products and pipeline operators with any quantity of liquid petroleum products in their pipeline; and
  • “responsible persons,” which are persons in possession, charge or control of a substance when a spill occurs or is imminent.

The three new regulations are the Spill Contingency Planning Regulation, the Spill Preparedness Recovery Regulation and the Spill Reporting Regulation.

Spill contingency planning

Regulated persons are required to develop and maintain spill contingency plans based on a worst-case scenario spill. Investigations, tests and surveys must be undertaken to determine the magnitude of the risks to human health, the environment and infrastructure from a worst-case spill. Pipeline and rail transporters must have their spill contingency plans in place by April 30, 2018, while trucking firms have until October 30, 2018.

Spill response efforts have failed to contain an estimated 110,000 litres of diesel and other petroleum products from the tugboat Nathan E. Stewart, which ran aground Oct. 13 in the Seaforth Channel near Bella Bella. (Photo Credit: Ian McAllister/CBC)

It is important to note that, while the spill planning obligations may resemble transportation of dangerous goods-type plans, they impose new requirements.

Spill reporting

New spill reporting requirements require a responsible person to immediately report any intentional or unintentional spill of a substance into the environment that may cause, is causing or has caused an adverse effect to water, the environment, human health or property if the volume of the substance exceeds the amounts set out in a schedule to the Spill Reporting Regulation or if the substance has or is likely to enter a body of water, regardless of the volume. Natural gas spills greater than 10 kg and releases from breakages of pipelines or fittings operated above 100 psi must also be reported.

The new regulation expands the scope of spills that must be reported, as it removes the previous volume/quantity threshold for spills to water.

It also expands the information that must be reported.

If a spill occurs or is imminent, a verbal report must immediately be made to the BC Provincial Emergency Program’s spill reporting hotline (1-800-663-3456) by the responsible person. New requirements stipulate the initial report must include the name of the owner of the spilled substance and a description of the source of the spill.

Starting on October 30, 2018, a written report must also be made within 30 days of the spill, or as soon as practicable on the minister’s request. An end-of-spill report must also be made within 30 days of the end of a spill’s emergency response activities.

Spill response

A responsible person must ensure persons with the skill, experience, resources and equipment arrive at the spill site within a prescribed period and activate an incident command system. They must also ensure actions are taken to address the threat or hazard caused by the spill, including assessing, monitoring and preventing the threat or hazard; stabilizing, containing and cleaning up the spill; identifying the immediate and long-term risks and impacts of the spill; and taking steps to resolve or mitigate such risks and impacts.

 

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