Posted on January 13, 2010 (updated: January 13, 2010)

You Spill, You Pay, At Last

Sierra Legal Defence Fund, Environmental Defence and Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) wish to congratulate the Ontario government for giving 3rd and final reading to Bill 133, known as ‘The Spills Bill’. The new legislation will become an important tool to combat the chronic non-compliance with Ontario’s pollution laws by large industrial facilities.

Corporate polluters have had little to fear up until now. Prosecutions have been rare, drawn out, and often result in slight reprimands, miniscule monetary fines or outright dismissals for technical reasons. Polluters will now face environmental penalties of up to $100,000 per day for hazardous spills without the risk, time and expense of court proceedings. The fines and penalties for prosecutions have also been increased.

“We are pleased that the government is keeping its promise of laying the groundwork for cracking down on major industrial polluters” says Robert Wright, Managing Lawyer for Sierra Legal. “The Spills Bill follows good common sense: polluters who want to stop paying will have to stop polluting.”

Rick Smith, the Executive Director of Environmental Defence, is also pleased with this new direction. “Ontario for years has been internationally recognized as a pollution delinquent. It’s about time we stopped bowing to industrial interests defending the toxic status quo.”

“‘The Spills Bill’ ensures greater protection for Ontario’s environment,” says CELA’s Executive Director Paul Muldoon. “It will help to ensure that dilution is not the solution for putting toxins into our water, and our air and soil will be better protected as well.”

The large number of hazardous spills into the St. Clair River in 2004 helped spur Bill 133. In March 2005, Sierra Legal released information documenting that in 2002 and 2003 there were more than 2,100 documented pollution violations by industry across Ontario, including more than 2,000 water pollution violations and 102 illegal spills into water. The data (obtained through Freedom of Information requests) also revealed that in 2003 alone the volume of illegal spills into water totalled more than 5,000,000 litres.

Subsequently, the Ministry of Environment reported a 13% increase in spills by large companies that discharge directly to surface water from 2003 to 2004. The average volume of liquid industrial spills increase by 250% and the average weight of solid industrial spills increased by about 400% in that same period.

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