Company fined $564,000 for violating VOC limits in CEPA Regulations

An automotive parts supplier based in Quebec, Les Entrepôts A.B. inc., was recently fined a total of $564,000 after pleading guilty, on October 4, to three counts of contravening the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 and the Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Concentration Limits for Automotive Refinishing Products Regulations, which are part of the Act.

An investigation by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) enforcement officers revealed that the company had imported, offered for sale, and sold automotive refinishing products that contained volatile organic compounds in excess of the allowable limit. The company also failed to comply with an environmental protection compliance order issued by an enforcement officer, under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

The company received two fines of $125,000 for importing and selling the products, respectively, totaling $250,000, and a fine of $150,000 for failing to comply with an environmental protection compliance order. In addition to the fines on the three counts, the company received an additional $164,000 fine for financial gains. This amount represents the profits generated by the sale of non-compliant automotive refinishing products. The total fines will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund.

In addition, the judge ordered the confiscation and destruction of the automotive refinishing products seized at the company’s expense, as well as the publication of an article in Le Carrossier magazine (Autosphere.ca) within six months. The article must contain the facts of the offence and the details of the sentence.

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.

Volatile organic compounds are primary precursors to the formation of ground-level ozone and particulate matter, the main components of smog. Smog is known to have adverse effects on human health and the environment.

It is estimated that over 5 kilotonnes of VOCs are emitted each year from coatings and surface cleaners used in automotive refinishing operations in Canada. The Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Concentration Limits for Automotive Refinishing Products Regulations are expected to reduce the annual VOC emissions from these sources by approximately 40%.

The Automotive Refinishing Products Regulations set concentration limits of volatile organic compounds for 14 categories of automotive refinishing products identified in the schedule of the regulations.

The Regulations are aligned with limits set by the California Air Resources Board suggested control measure (CARB SCM) for automotive refinishing products. During regulatory development, it was determined that the greatest potential reduction in Canada would be achieved by establishing VOC concentration limits similar to the CARB SCM. Other jurisdictions in the United States, as well as the European Union, have either already established similar limits or are considering them. Therefore, aligning the Regulations will facilitate consistency across North America, provide a level playing field to manufacturers and importers of automotive refinishing products, and provide consistent treatment across jurisdictions.