Why Pollution Liability Brokers Should Pay Attention To This Auditor General’s Report

The Ontario government should review a rule that leaves polluters safe from hazardous spills that cost less than $ 10,000 to clean up, suggests the province’s auditor general.

In 2016, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment [now called the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks] adopted a new policy stating that it would not attempt to recover hazardous spill response costs if they are estimated to be less than $ 10,000.

In a report released on November 22, 2021, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk recommends that the ministry reassess this threshold.

Ontario – like most other jurisdictions – has a “polluter pays” rule that generally requires anyone charged with managing loads or controlling a property to pay for the cleanup and remediation of spills. Hazardous Material.

In Ontario, the $ 10,000 cost recovery threshold is considerably higher than that used by other provinces and municipalities in Ontario, the Auditor General noted in the value-for-money audit on hazardous spills .

British Columbia, for example, has a minimum of $ 175 for spill cost recovery.

Using another example cited in the Auditor General’s report, the City of Guelph, Ontario. issues invoices to recover cleanup costs for any spill that requires more than two hours of its environmental officers’ time or when the City needs to hire an outside contractor to help with the cleanup.

“Spill response activities that result in significant costs, such as the use of laboratory services and spill response equipment, have not been calculated and disclosed to officials. environment, “said the Office of the Auditor General.

More than 73,000 hazardous spills were reported in Ontario between 2011 and 2020, but the government has only attempted to recover its response costs three times, the auditor general said.

“Even in those three cases, it only exceeded about half of the $ 1.3 million spill response cost it incurred.”

Sometimes the province issues clean-up orders against individual directors and officers. One example is a 2012 Ontario Ministry of the Environment order against 13 former directors of Northstar Aerospace Canada.

In Cambridge, Ontario, Northstar manufactured parts for military helicopters such as the CH-47 Chinook, AH-64 Apache, and UH-60 Blackhawk. The Cambridge site was found to be contaminated with trichlorethylene as well as contaminants from a different property in the same area.

Meanwhile, Northstar had obtained protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act. the ministry therefore proceeded to clean up 13 individual directors and officers. These individuals appealed unsuccessfully to the Environmental Tribunal for a stay of the MOE remediation order. Instead of seeking judicial review of the ERT’s decision, they settled.

Featured Image by iStock.com/Phototreat

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