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Court Upholds Decision That The Ministry May Order Current And Former Owners, And Tenants To Delineate Contamination That Has Migrated Off-Site

Article by Stanley D. Berger and Albert M. Engel

Fogler, Rubinoff LLP

On September 4, 2018, Ontario’s Divisional Court released its decision in Hamilton Beach Brands Canada, Inc. v. Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, 2018 ONSC 5010, dismissing an appeal of a September 1, 2017 decision of Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal (Hamilton Beach Brands Canada Inc. v. Ontario (Environment and Climate Change), 2017 CanLII 57415 (ON ERT)) in which the Tribunal upheld the Ministry’s jurisdiction to order current and former owners and tenants of a contaminated property to delineate contamination that has migrated to off-site properties. The Tribunal’s decision also found that the Ministry had jurisdiction to make an order regarding existing, ongoing and future adverse effects, that the adverse effects do not have to be related to the potential off-site migration of a contaminant, nor must the contaminant be on an orderee’s property at the time the order is made and that the order may require work on-site and off-site to address an adverse effect.

In upholding the Tribunal’s decision, the Divisional Court found that there is no geographical constraint limiting orders to the source property of the contamination and quoted the Tribunal’s observation that “contamination and adverse effects are not constrained by the boundaries of a property, either in initial discharge or because of migration”. The Divisional Court also found that the Tribunal’s interpretation of the Ministry’s order-making jurisdiction is consistent with the Brownfield regime since protection from orders is extinguished under the regime when contaminants migrate from a property that was subject to that regime.

The former appliance manufacturing plant on McFarland Drive that is the property in question in the  Hamilton Beach Brands Canada, Inc. v. Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, 2018 ONSC 5010 (Phtoto Credit: Jason Parks/Picton Gazette)

The order provisions of s.18(2) of the Environmental Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.E.19 were at issue in this case. This is the first Divisional Court decision interpreting the geographic extent of the powers set out in s.18(2). The decision confirms that the powers are expansive and should be considered by any current, former or prospective owner or tenant of a contaminated property. We will continue to monitor this case should it be appealed further.

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About the Authors

Mr. Berger has practiced regulatory law for 37 years. He represents nuclear operators and suppliers, waste management operators, renewable energy operators, receivers-in-bankruptcy, municipalities and First Nations. He was an Assistant Crown Attorney in Toronto for 8 years, Senior counsel and Deputy Director for Legal Services/Prosecutions at the Ministry of the Environment for 9 years and Assistant General Counsel at Ontario Power Generation Inc for 14 years.
He is the author of a quarterly loose-leaf service published by Thomson Reuters entitled the Prosecution and Defence of Environmental Offences and the editor of an annual review of environmental law.
Mr. Berger was the President of the International Nuclear Law Association (2008-2009) and the founder, and President of the Canadian Nuclear Law Organization.

Mr. Engel practice all aspects of Environmental and Renewable Energy Law. He advises clients in the development and operation of renewable energy projects, regulatory compliance and civil causes of action.He represent clients before Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal and all levels of court. He assist clients with defences to environmental and other regulatory prosecutions, appeals of environmental orders and civil litigation involving environmental issues including contaminated lands.

Mr. Engel has a Masters degree in Environmental Studies and is Certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as a Specialist in Environmental Law.