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August 28, 2014

British Columbia: New Administrative Penalties for Environmental Offenses

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The BC Ministry of Environment introduced an administrative penalty program to encourage compliance with the Environmental Management Act (the "EMA") and the Integrated Pest Management Act (the "IPMA").
The Administrative Penalties Regulation was designed to bridge the gap between warnings and violation tickets for minor offences and criminal prosecutions for more serious offences.

Examples of violations that can attract an administrative penalty include unauthorized waste discharges, discharges in excess of the amount permitted under an authorization or regulation, and a failure to submit monitoring reports.

Maximum fines under the Regulation range from $2,000 to $75,000, depending on the nature of the contravention. These amounts are (relatively) low, particularly compared with the Administrative Penalties Regulation under the Oil and Gas Activities Act, which provides for fines of up to $500,000. However, companies should keep in mind that a determination of a contravention under the Regulation will form part of their record of violations and could expose them to significantly greater liability for future offences under the EMA and IPMA, as well as certain federal legislation, including the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (the "CEPA"), which provides for steep fines (up to $1,000,000) for repeat offenders. For the purposes of CEPA, a company may be found to be a repeat offender if convicted of a "substantially similar offence" under a provincial statute relating to environmental or wildlife conservation or protection, such as the EMA or the IPMA.


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