New penal sanctions and administrative penalties for non-compliance with regulations under the Environment Quality Act

April 2013 Author: Jean Piette

Contacts

Penal and administrative sanctions harmonized

In 2011, the Quebec National Assembly passed an Act to amend the Environment Quality Act in order to reinforce compliance,1 better known as Bill 89. This statute amended the Environment Quality Act (EQA) in order to give the Government new means to ensure compliance by, among other things, introducing monetary administrative penalties, increasing penal sanctions, expanding functionaries’ inspection and order-making powers and making directors and officers of legal persons, partnerships or associations more accountable.2

Under Bill 89, the Government or the Minister, as applicable, must, by regulations adopted no later than June 30, 2013, revise the regulations adopted for the purposes of the EQA before that date, in order to harmonize the penal provisions of those regulations with those enacted by the new law, determine the provisions of those regulations that may give rise to a monetary administrative penalty if they are not complied with, define the conditions for applying such a penalty and set forth the amounts of the penalties or the methods for calculating them, in accordance with the EQA.

The 36 regulations resulting from this harmonization were published for consultation purposes in the Gazette officielle du Québec of March 27, 2013. They are:

  • Agricultural Operations Regulation
  • Regulation respecting application of section 32 of the Environment Quality Act
  • Regulation respecting application of the Environment Quality Act
  •  Regulation respecting biomedical waste
  • Regulation respecting the burial of contaminated soils
  • Regulation respecting the charges payable for the disposal of residual materials
  • Regulation respecting the charges payable for the use of water
  • Clean Air Regulation
  • Regulation respecting contaminated soil storage and contaminated soil transfer stations
  • Regulation respecting the declaration of water withdrawals
  • Regulation to prohibit the sale of certain dishwashing detergents
  • Regulation respecting environmental standards for heavy vehicles
  • Regulation respecting the filing of information on certain drilling and fracturing work on gas or petroleum wells
  • Regulation respecting greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles
  • Groundwater Catchment Regulation
  • Regulation respecting halocarbons
  • Regulation respecting hazardous materials
  • Regulation respecting hot mix asphalt plants
  • Land Protection and Rehabilitation Regulation
  • Regulation respecting the landfilling and incineration of residual materials
  • Regulation respecting the liquid effluents of petroleum refineries
  • Regulation respecting motor vehicle traffic in certain fragile environments
  • Regulation respecting pits and quarries
  • Regulation respecting the protection of waters from pleasure craft discharges
  • Regulation respecting pulp and paper mills
  • Regulation respecting the quality of drinking water
  • Regulation respecting the quality of the atmosphere
  • Regulation respecting the recovery and reclamation of products by enterprises
  • Regulation respecting the reuse of water containers with a capacity exceeding 8 litres
  • Regulation respecting snow elimination sites
  • Regulation respecting solid waste
  • Regulation respecting used tire storage
  • Regulation respecting waste water disposal systems for isolated dwellings
  • Regulation respecting water quality in swimming pools and other artificial pools
  • Regulation respecting waterworks and sewer services
  • Regulation respecting wood-burning appliances.

Monetary administrative sanctions under the above draft regulations range from $250 to $2,000 for a natural person and from $1,000 to $10,000 for a legal person, depending on which sections of the regulations are contravened. Fines range from $1,000 to $1,000,000 for natural persons and from $3,000 to $6,000,000 for legal persons, depending on the environmental importance of the sections of the regulation that are contravened. Anyone wishing to comment on these draft regulations may submit written comments to the individuals identified in the respective draft regulations within a 60-day period following March 27, 2013. As the regulations must be revised no later than June 30, 2013, these regulatory amendments will have to be passed quickly after the consultation period ends.

Other regulatory amendments

In addition to revoking certain outdated provisions and correcting technical or terminology errors, the draft regulations below propose the following changes:

  • The draft Regulation to amend the Regulation respecting application of section 32 of the Environment Quality Act adds, on certain conditions, work for the installation of sludge dewatering equipment in a lagoon-type treatment plant to the work already exempt from the application of section 32 of the LQE. Municipalities will therefore no longer have to obtain the Minister’s authorization for such work if it is carried out within the operation area of the treatment plant.
  • The draft Regulation to amend the Regulation respecting the liquid effluents of petroleum refineries makes some amendments that are part of regulatory streamlining in order to minimize certain administrative requirements imposed on individuals. The declarations as to measurement days (section 16) and refining capacity (section 22) are revoked.
  • The draft Regulation to amend the Regulation respecting the burial of contaminated soil proposes to amend section 37, in order to require the operator to have the development and final cover work of contaminated soil burial sites supervised by a certified and independent professional and to provide the Minister with the report related to such work.
  • The draft Regulation to amend the Regulation respecting hazardous materials proposes an amendment to section 70 so that the requirements in that section (ensuring that a qualified professional supervises the work related to the installation of an underground tank and that said qualified professional inspects the tank before and after it is set in place, having the tank repaired in case of damage and sending the Minister a report prepared by the professional indicating that the installation complies with or does not comply with the applicable standards) apply to the owner or operator rather than to the professional who carries out the work.
  • The draft Regulation to amend the Regulation respecting the recovery and reclamation of products by enterprises proposes a significant increase in all maximum fines, an adjustment of all minimum fines and, for certain offences considered to be more serious, terms of imprisonment. The maximum fines for a legal person would range from $600,000 to $3,000,000, depending on the offence. Under the previous version of the regulation, the maximum fine for a legal person was $250,000, which was then doubled in the event of a subsequent offence.

Establishment of the Réserve écologique du Mont-Gosford

On March 13, 2013, the Government of Quebec made Order in Council establishing the Réserve écologique du Mont-Gosford and approving its conservation plan. One of the purposes of the reserve is to protect softwood forests that are typical of the higher Appalachian peaks and rare in Quebec. Mont-Gosford is the highest peak in southern Quebec and the seventh highest in Quebec. Located in Estrie near the Canada-U.S. border, it is the only ecological reserve in the natural region of the White Mountains.

Notes

1 SQ 2011, c. 20.

2 For more information about this Act, please see the December 2011 Norton Rose Legal update entitled “Quebec’s Environment Quality Act toughened up”.

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