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Rare Jail Sentence for Environmental Offence in Canada

On August 21, 2018, Collingwood Prime Realty Holdings Corp. and its director, Mr. Issa El-Hinn, were sentenced in the Ontario Court of Justice for offences under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 related to contraventions of the PCB Regulations.

The charges stem from old electrical transformers and capacitors in use on the former Goodyear property at 101 Mountain Rd., which is now owned by Collingwood Prime Realty.

The property at 101 Mountain Rd., used to be a Goodyear plant. Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday

The court sentenced Mr. El-Hinn to a 45-day jail term, which will be served on weekends, for failing to comply with an environmental protection compliance order. The Court also sentenced the corporation and Mr. El-Hinn to pay a combined penalty of $420,000 to be directed to the federal Environmental Damages Fund.

On April 30, 2015, Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers launched an investigation following the company’s failure to comply with an environmental protection compliance order. The investigation revealed that two electrical transformers and eight electrical capacitors contained higher-than-allowable PCB levels and that the equipment had not been sent for destruction to an authorized facility. The defendants pleaded guilty on September 26, 2017, to ten counts of contravening the PCB Regulations made pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, and one count of failing to comply with an environmental protection compliance order.

As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.

PCBs are toxic industrial chemical substances that are harmful to aquatic ecosystems and species that feed primarily on aquatic organisms.

Earlier this year, Collingwood Fire Department successfully prosecuted Collingwood Prime Realty Holdings Corp., and its owner El Hinn for multiple fire code violations at the property at 101 Mountain Rd.

Mine fined $100,000 for not Monitoring Effluent

On August 20, 2018, Lupin Mines Incorporated was ordered in the Nunavut Court of Justice to pay $100,000 after pleading guilty to a violation under the Fisheries Act related to the Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations. Of the total penalty, $80,000 will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund.

An investigation launched by Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers revealed that Lupin Mines Incorporated did not carry out an environmental effects monitoring study within the prescribed period, contrary to the requirements of the Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations. Lupin Mines Incorporated has since completed the required study.

Owners and operators of mining companies are required by law to conduct environmental effects monitoring studies that examine the potential effects of their effluent (discharge) on fish populations and aquatic invertebrates.

As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.

Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act, which prohibit the deposit of deleterious substances into water frequented by fish. The Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations authorize the deposit of effluent, provided that conditions prescribed in the Regulations are observed.

Lupin Gold Mine, Nunavut

Environmental Consultant’s Disclaimer of Liability to Vendor effective against Third Party Purchaser

by Stanley D. Berger, Fogler Rubinoff

On July 23, 2018 the Court of Appeal for Newfoundland and Labrador in the case of Community Mental Health Initiative Inc. v. Summit Lounge Ltd. 2018 NLCA 42 upheld summary judgment dismissing a purchaser’s claim against two engineering companies (consultants) alleging negligence in the conduct of a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment performed for the vendor. The agreement between the consultants and the vendor and the final report both indicated that the assessment was prepared solely for the benefit of the vendor and that the consultants accepted no responsibility for any damages suffered by any third party. Significantly, the plaintiff-purchaser had knowledge of the disclaimer, having been provided with a copy of the final report by its real estate agent prior to the closing of the transaction. The Court of Appeal referred to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Edgeworth Construction ltd. v. N.D. Lea & Associates Ltd. [1993] 3.S.C.R. 206 as well as decisions from appeal courts in Ontario Wolverine Tube (Canada) Inc. (1995) , 26 O.R. (3d) 577 and B.C., Kokanee Mortgage M.I.C. Ltd. 2018 BCCA 151 and summarized the legal principles as follows: (at par. 23) “… an express disclaimer of liability can be an effective bar against a claim by a third party who relied on work in the knowledge of the disclaimer. Permitting third parties to rely on reports which are expressly protected by a disclaimer would undermine the ability of contracting commercial parties to govern their own affairs.”

IMPLICATIONS FOR REAL ESTATE TRANSACTIONS AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTANTS?

The long established principle of privity of contract i.e. that the rights and obligations in a contract apply only to the parties to the contract have been further tested by this decision. For engineering consultants, the decision highlights the importance of exacting express disclaimer clauses restricting responsibility for the reporting information to the party retaining them. For purchasers of real estate, it reinforces the necessity of obtaining indemnities from the vendor for undiscovered contamination or if that is not realistic, retaining an independent environmental consultant to verify any consulting reports given to them by the vendor.

This article was first published on the Fogler Rubinoff LLP website.

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About the Author

Mr. Stanley Berger serves as the Partner at Fogler, Rubinoff LLP. Mr. Berger joined the law firm of Fogler Rubinoff on July 4, 2013. Before joining Fogler Rubinoff, he served for 14 years as Assistant General Counsel to Ontario Power Generation Inc (OPG). In that capacity he provided legal services on licensing, environmental assessment, regulatory compliance, liability, security, decommissioning and waste management to the Nuclear Division of OPG.  Mr. Berger provided strategic legal advice and representation on aboriginal litigation and participated in First Nation settlement negotiations. Prior to joining OPG, he served as the Deputy Director of the Law Division for Prosecutions for the Ontario Ministry of Environment. In that capacity he managed the prosecution staff and helped shape prosecution policy. 

Couple admits illegally storing 4,500 tons of hazardous waste in warehouse

As reported in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a husband and wife recently plead guilty to a U.S. federal charge and admitted improperly transporting 4,500 tons of hazardous waste and storing it in a warehouse near St. Louis, Missouri.

The couple, both in their 60’s, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in St. Louis to a misdemeanor charge of placing someone in danger of death or serious bodily injury from a hazardous waste.

Green Materials LLC facility in Missouri (Photo Credit: Robert Patrick, Post Dispatch)

Their company, Missouri Green Materials LLC, Missouri Green Materials LLC stored a large quantity of spent sandblasting materials inside a warehouse located in the town of Berger, approximately 70 miles west of St. Louis.  They couple admitted that they arranged for the transport and storage of the hazardous waste from Mississippi, and failed to tell both the trucking companies that hauled the waste and the personnel that unloaded it of the danger.  Their storage facility was not properly permitted was not registered as a permitted hazardous waste storage or recycling facility.

The sandblasting waste materials are considered to be hazardous because they contain amounts of certain metals, including cadmium, that exceed regulatory limits established by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA).

The materials were stored in a warehouse in a flood plain for more than four years.  There are no indications of any release of the materials from the warehouse.

The couple have agreed to pay $1.5 million to the U.S. EPA for the costs of dealing with the waste. They could face probation or a sentence of six months behind bars for the crime under federal sentencing guidelines.

The source of the sandblasting waste was for a site in Mississippi.  An Ohio company, U.S. Technology Corp had been buried the waste.  The company was repeatedly ordered by regulators to remove it.

In 2016, the U.S. EPA and U.S. Technology signed a consent agreement whereby the company agreed to remove the waste from Green Material’s facility in Missouri and test the site for soil contamination.  According to prosecutors, this work was never performed.

U.S. Technology and president Raymond Williams, 71, both pleaded not guilty in the case. A hearing has been scheduled to change both pleas later in June.

Some sandblasting waste is classified as hazardous

Environmental Fine for Violation of Canada’s Regulations related to Petroleum Products Storage

Mosquito Grizzly Bear’s Head and Lean Man First Nation and band administrator, Arnold Moosomin, were recently sentenced in the Provincial Court of Saskatchewan for failing to comply with an environmental protection compliance order issued by Enforcement Officers from Environment Canada and Climate Change (the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. EPA).

Mosquito First Nation is an Assiniboine Nation located in the Eagle Hills approximately 30 kilometres south of Battleford, Saskatchewan.  It is nearly 50,000 acres in size and has approximately 1000 members.

The Court fined the Mosquito Grizzly Bear’s Head and Lean Man First Nation $100,000 and Moosomin $5,000.  The funds will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund.

The fine was the result failing to comply with an environmental protection compliance order following an inspection to ensure compliance with the Canadian Storage Tank Systems for Petroleum Products and Allied Petroleum Products Regulations.  These regulations establish technical standards for the design and installation of storage tank systems under federal jurisdiction and include requirements for operation, maintenance, removal, reporting and record-keeping.

Environmental Officers subsequently laid charges under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 after it was determined that the First Nation and band administrator failed to comply with all of the terms of the order. The defendants were convicted following a trial.

Ontario Legal Report: Thompson Fuels Ordered To Pay Costs

Article by Paula LombardiSiskinds LLP

The case of Gendron v. Thompson Fuels, related to a home furnace oil tank that developed a leak in December 2008. The leak caused damage to the Gendron’s home and the surrounding environment, including nearby Sturgeon Lake. The City of Kawartha Lakes cleaned up the Lake.

On July 17, 2017 the court released its decision on this matter, (2017 ONSC 4009) granting judgement in favour of Gendron against Thompson Fuels. The court appropriated 60% liability to Gendron and 40% to Thompson Fuels. The parties agreed that, based on the court’s findings, Gendron’s total damages were $2,161,570, and Thompson Fuels’ portion of those costs equalled $901,747 ($864,628 plus $37,119 interest). In that decision the court found that the two remaining defendants, the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (“TSSA”) and Les Reservoirs D’Acier De Granby Inc. (“Granby”) were not liable.

Closeup of an oil slick in water with fall colors in the grass on the shore

The parties were unable to agree on costs and requested that submissions on costs be deferred until the decision on the post-trial motions was released. On March 29, 2018 the Court ordered Thompson Fuels to pay Gendron’s costs on a partial indemnity basis in the amount of $473,000.00 (2018 ONSC 2079). In arriving at this amount, the Court considered the Gendron’s contributory negligence, the costs of various post-trial motions brought by the parties, the reasonableness of Gendron’s bill of costs, and the fact that neither party had beat its offer to settle.

The Court then awarded $150,000 in costs to TSSA as against Gendron and Thompson Fuels, who had cross-claimed against TSSA. The Court further ordered Gendron and Thompson Fuels to contribute $140,000 and $10,000, respectively. The Court also ordered Gendron and Thompson Fuels to pay equal shares of TSSA’s costs of $7,500.00 for the post-trial motions. In deciding to award only partial indemnity costs, the Court found that given TSSA’s limited involvement at trial, it did not require two lawyers to attend at trial. The Court also noted that even though Gendron’s action in negligence against TSSA had failed, the trial Court had found that the TSSA had not been “a model of efficiency or clarity” in its dealings with Gendron.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

This article was first published on the Siskinds Law Firm web site.

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About the author

Paula Lombardi is a partner of Siskinds LLP,  and practices in the areas of environmental, municipal, regulatory and administrative law.  Prior to joining Siskinds, Paula worked as an associate at a Bay Street law firm where her practice focused on occupational health and safety, environmental and regulatory matters.

Paula recently spent two years as in-house counsel for a major privately owned US corporation, whose owner is on the Forbes 500 list, and was responsible for all Canadian legal and business issues relating to the import and export of goods, transportation of hazardous materials, remediation of contaminated sites, construction of large infrastructure projects, regulatory compliance, NAFTA matters, and preparation of environmental assessments in the US and Canada.

Paula has a great deal of experience in: providing due diligence advice; dealing with contamination issues; handling of organic chemicals and hazardous wastes; obtaining environmental approvals; obtaining planning and development approvals; providing advice to municipalities; defending environmental prosecutions; and assisting companies with environmental and regulatory compliance. Paula has appeared before numerous administrative tribunals.

Pulp Mill in British Columbia fined $900K for releasing deleterious effluent

The Mackenzie Pulp Mill Corporation recently pleaded guilty, in the Provincial Court of British Columbia, to depositing a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish, in violation of the pollution-prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act.  The company was ordered to pay a penalty of $900,000, which will be directed to the federal Environmental Damages Fund.  This funding is to be used for the conservation of fish or fish habitat in the Omineca region of British Columbia. The company was also ordered to complete an independent audit of its operations to prevent future incidents of this kind.

The offence relates to incidents in July 2014 and September 2016, when effluent discharging from the Mackenzie Pulp Mill was found to be deleterious to fish. Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers investigated the incidents, and their investigation revealed that the mill’s treatment system had not properly treated the effluent before discharging it, due in part to improper management of the wastewater entering the treatment system. The effluent was deposited into Williston Lake, which is frequented by fish.

As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.  The Environmental Offenders Registry contains information on convictions of corporations registered for offences committed under certain federal environmental laws.

Environmental Fine of $100,000 for Gas Bar Owner in Big River, Saskatchewan

Big River First Nation was recently sentenced to pay a fine of $100,000 in the Provincial Court of Saskatchewan for failing to comply with an environmental protection compliance order concerning the Miami Gas Bar, a company owned and operated by the Big River First Nation. An environmental protection compliance order is an order under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, which directs various measures be taken to stop or prevent a violation of the Act or its regulations.

The conviction stems a 2014 inspection by Officers from Environment Canada and Climate Change (ECCC) to verify compliance with the Storage Tank Systems for Petroleum Products and Allied Petroleum Products Regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.  As a result of the investigation, the ECCC Officers issued an environmental protection compliance order. Charges were subsequently laid when the compliance order was not followed.  In court, Big River First Nation pleaded guilty to failing to comply with measures identified in the order.

The Storage Tank Systems for Petroleum Products and Allied Petroleum Products Regulations aim to reduce the risk of spills and leaks of petroleum products from storage tank systems, which can contaminate soil and groundwater. The Regulations apply to storage tank systems operated by a federal department, board, agency, or Crown corporation; storage tank systems providing services to federal works or undertakings that are a port authority, airport, or railway; and storage tank systems located on federal or Aboriginal lands.

U.S. Ninth Circuit Rules Military Contractor Liable on CERCLA Clean-up Costs

Written by: By Whitney Jones Roy and Whitney HodgesSheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP

TDY Holdings, LLC brought suit for contribution under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) against the U.S. government relating to environmental contamination at TDY’s manufacturing plant. The district court granted judgment in favor of the government after a 12-day bench trial and allocated 100 percent of past and future CERCLA costs to TDY. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court sharply deviated from the two most “on point” decisions regarding allocation of cleanup costs between military contractors and the U.S. government when it determined the cases were not comparable, clarified the applicability of those cases, and remanded the case to reconsider the appropriate allocation of cleanup costs between TDY and the U.S. government.

TDY (formerly known as Ryan Aeronautical Company) owned and operated a manufacturing plant near the San Diego airport

From 1939 through 1999, TDY (formerly known as Ryan Aeronautical Company) owned and operated a manufacturing plant near the San Diego airport. TDY’s primary customer was the U.S. government—99 percent of TDY’s work at the plant between 1942 and 1945, and 90 percent of the work thereafter was done pursuant to contracts with the U.S. military. The United States also owned certain equipment at the site from 1939 to 1979. Id. at 1006. Chromium compounds, chlorinated solvents, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were released at the site as a result of their use during manufacturing operations. Id. In some cases, the government’s contracts required the use of chromium compounds and chlorinated solvents. Id. After passage of the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws classifying these chemicals as hazardous substances in the 1970s, TDY began environmental remediation and compliance at the site and billed the government for the “indirect costs” of that work, which the government paid. Id. at 1006–07. TDY incurred over $11 million in response costs at the site. Id. at 1007. Until the plant’s closure in 1999, the government reimbursed 90 to 100 percent of TDY’s cleanup costs at the site. Id. at 1007, 1010.

In 2004, the San Diego Unified Port District brought CERCLA claims against TDY. TDY and the Port District entered into a settlement agreement in March 2007 in which TDY agreed to cleanup releases at the site. TDY then brought suit for contribution under 42 U.S.C. § 9613(f)(1) and declaratory relief against the United States. Id. at 1007. The district court granted TDY’s motion for partial summary judgment declaring that the United States was liable as a past owner of the site under CERCLA. Id. After a 12-day bench trial on equitable allocation of costs, the district court held that the contamination caused by the hazardous substances at issue was attributable to TDY’s storage, maintenance, and repair practices, as well as spills and drips that occurred in the manufacturing process, rather than to the government’s directives to use the chemicals. Id. Accordingly, the district court allocated 100 percent of the past and future response costs for remediation of the three hazardous substances to TDY. Id. at 1008.

On appeal, TDY argued that the district court erred (1) when it allocated liability according to “fault”; (2) that the government’s role as owner rather than operator should not have been a dispositive factor in the court’s allocation, and (3) that the government should bear a greater share of response costs because it specifically required use of the chemicals at the site. Id. The court of appeals summarily rejected TDY’s first two arguments, but found that the district court did err in its analysis and application of binding authority on point: United States v. Shell Oil Co., 294 F.3d 1045 (9th Cir. 2002) and Cadillac Fairview/California, Inc. v. Dow Chem. Co., 299 F.3d 1019 (9th Cir. 2002). Id. at 1008–09. Shell Oil and Dow Chemical each produced products to support the U.S. military during World War II and incurred liability for contamination caused by hazardous chemicals that the government required to be used. In both cases, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district courts’ allocation of 100 percent of cleanup costs to the government because “the contractors’ costs were ‘properly seen as part of the war effort for which the American public as a whole should pay.’” Id. at 1009.

The Ninth Circuit disagreed with the district court’s conclusion that Shell Oil and Cadillac Fairview were not comparable, but agreed that some deviation from their allocations were appropriate. Id. The Ninth Circuit agreed that the government exercised less control over TDY than it did over Shell Oil Co. or Dow Chemical. In support of this determination, the court noted that the government was an operator, rather than an owner, of TDY’s site, that the government-owned equipment was removed from the site 20 years before TDY ceased operations, and that TDY’s own practices at the site caused the contamination. Id. at 1010. Furthermore, the district court properly determined that “industrial operations undertaken for the purpose of national defense, standing alone, did not justify allocating all costs to the government.” Id.

However, the Ninth Circuit held that, in allocating 100 percent of cleanup costs to TDY, the district court failed to consider that the government required TDY to use two of the three chemicals at issue beginning in the 1940s, when the need to take precautions against environmental contamination from these substances was not known. Id. Furthermore, the Ninth Circuit determined that “[t]he court’s acknowledgement of the evolving understanding of environmental contamination caused by these chemicals, and TDY’s prompt adoption of practices to reduce the release of hazardous chemicals into the environment once the hazards became known, further undercuts the decision to allocate 100 percent of the costs to TDY.” Id. The district court also failed to consider the parties’ lengthy course of dealing through 1999, when the government paid between 90 and 100 percent of cleanup costs at the plant. Id. Although “a customer’s willingness to pay disposal costs . . . cannot be equated with a willingness to foot the bill for a company’s unlawful discharge of oil or other pollutants,” the Ninth Circuit nevertheless determined it should have been a relevant factor in the allocation analysis. Id.

This article was originally published on the Sheppard Mullin Real Estate, Land Use & Environment Law Blog

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About the Authors

Whitney Jones Roy is a litigation partner in firm’s Los Angeles office. Ms. Roy was recognized by Law360 as a “Female Powerbroker” and by the Daily Journal as one of the Top 100 Women Lawyers in California in 2014.  Ms. Roy has experience in all aspects of California and federal civil procedure through trial. She also defends her clients on appeal when necessary.  Ms. Roy also specializes in complex environmental litigation and related products liability litigation. Her expertise includes the Clean Air Act, CERCLA, RCRA, design defect, failure to warn, negligence, nuisance, and trespass.

Whitney Hodges is an associate in the Real Estate, Land Use and Natural Resources Practice Group in the firm’s San Diego office. She also serves on the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Pro Bono Committee, Recruiting Committee, Energy, Infrastructure and Project Finance Team and Latin Business Team.  Ms. Hodges specializes in the representation of clients involved in real estate development. Her practice focuses on advising and representing major residential, industrial, commercial and mixed-use development projects, as well as Native American Indian tribes and renewable energy developers through all phases of the land use regulatory process and environmental compliance.

 

 

Environmental charges laid against Husky Energy Inc. and Husky Oil Operations Limited

Environment Canada and Climate Change (ECCC) recently laid a number of charges against Husky Energy Inc. and Husky Oil Operations Limited relating to the blended heavy crude-oil spill, in July 2016, which impacted the North Saskatchewan River, near Maidstone, Saskatchewan. The Government of Saskatchewan also filed a charge under the Environmental Management and Protection Act, 2010. These charges result from a 19-month joint federal-provincial investigation.

There are a total of ten charges which include one charge under subsection 36(3) of the federal Fisheries Act, one charge under subsection 38(5) of the federal Fisheries Act, six charges under subsection 38(6) of the federal Fisheries Act, one charge under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, and one charge under Saskatchewan’s Environmental Management and Protection Act, 2010.

The first appearance was at the end of March at the Lloydminster Provincial Court office.  According to the Premier of Saskatchewan’s office, the company faces a possible maximum $1 million fine.

Shoreline cleanup for the Maidstone-area oil spill (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

Saskatchewan Minister of Environment Dustin Duncan said the spill led to significant changes in the provincial Pipelines Act; changes that include greater regulation, auditing powers, penalty provisions and licensing flowlines.

“We take this very seriously. There, to my knowledge, hasn’t been a charge with respect to the unintended release of oil from a pipeline in the province’s history,” he told reporters in late March.

Duncan said the site cleanup was completed by the end of last year, but Husky will have to work with the province’s Water Security Agency and the Ministry of Environment to make sure nothing else is required.  He said he expects full co-operation.

“In the last year, despite a very unsettling situation, Husky was very responsive when it came to the cleanup but also responding to the concerns by First Nations, by communities along the river, as well as to the requests that were made by the government department,” Duncan said.

All charges are currently before the Court, and they have not yet been proven. Under Canadian law, those charged are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, Environment and Climate Change Canada and Saskatchewan’s Water Security Agency, which has a responsibility for the specific charge under the provincial Environmental Management and Protection Act, 2010, will not be commenting further at this time.