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Valero Energy Inc., the owner of the Lévis, Quebec-based Jean-Gaulin Refinery, has received a $500,000 fine for violating the Fisheries Act.

Reportedly, in 2008, the company accidentally released some 200,000 litres of heavy fuel oil into a stream that flows into the Saint-Lawrence River. Environment Canada issued an order requiring the company to clean up and monitor the watercourse, which supports fish and fish habitat.

However, the company repeatedly failed to comply with the order, so was charged with, and plead guilty to, six counts of failing to comply with a directive requiring rehabilitation and environmental monitoring work issued following the deposit of a deleterious substance in water frequented by fish.

The total $500,000 fine comprises $120,000 for having contravened the Environment Canada order (under s. 40(3)(g) of the Fisheries Act) plus an additional $380,000 to reflect the financial gain realised by the company in committing the infractions. As is customary, the company will also be listed in the federal Environmental Offenders Registry.

Although not frequently prosecuted, convictions under the Fisheries Act can produce very large fines. For example, we reported last year about a $3 million fine issued to Teck Metals related to the release of deleterious substances into the Columbia River. We also reported of a $225,000 fine imposed upon a Nova Scotia pulp and paper company and a $100,000 fine issued to the Department of National Defence related to unrelated spills that occurred in Nova Scotia.

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