A gas station operating on a First Nations Reserve in Duck Lake, Saskatchewan was ordered to pay $25,000 for failing to comply with Environment Canada enforcement orders. Blackhawk’s Gas, owned by a numbered company, had failed to take specific measures relating to sections of the Storage Tank Systems for Petroleum Products and Allied Petroleum Products Regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA, 1999). The station was fined an additional $2,000 for failing to have a compliant emergency plan and for failing to perform required inspections. The court also ordered the station to perform an environmental audit, repair any deficiencies, and to prepare an adequate emergency plan. The conviction is notable because it serves as a reminder of the recently raised minimum fines set under CEPA 1999, as amended by the Environmental Enforcement Act (EEA).
The EEA amended nine federal environmental laws, including CEPA 1999, and introduced a new fine scheme that was intended to “more accurately reflect the seriousness of environmental offences.” The new fine scheme as it applies to CEPA offences first came into force on June 22, 2012. Under the scheme, individuals will face minimum fines of $5,000 for most serious offences, small corporations (defined under s. 272.3 of CEPA 1999 as those which a court determines to have gross revenues of not more than $5,000,000 for the 12 months immediately before the day on which the subject matter of the proceedings arose) will be fined a minimum of $25,000, and larger corporations will be fined a minimum of $100,000. All fines are doubled for second and subsequent offences.
Under the scheme, courts may impose a fine less than the minimum amount provided in the EEA if the minimum fine would “cause undue financial hardship,” but the court must order offenders to pay an additional fine “equal to any benefit, advantage or property gained as a result of the offence.” All fines are directed to the Environmental Damages Fund, which is a fund that was created by Environment Canada in 1995 to provide a mechanism for directing the payment of fines for the repair of actual harm done to the environment.
As a result of the conviction, the numbered company, which owns the station, will be added to the federal Environmental Offenders Registry, which contains information on convictions of corporations relating to violations of certain federal environmental laws. The registry has been collecting information on convictions of corporations since June 18, 2009, when the EEA received Royal Assent.