Greater fines and new administrative penalties for environmental violations in Quebec since February 1st

February 21, 2012

The final measures provided under Bill 89, An Act to amend the Environment Quality Act in order to reinforce compliance came into force this February 1st, giving the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks (Ministry) greater powers against contraveners.

Fines may now reach one million dollars for natural persons and six million dollars for legal persons for a violation of the Environment Quality Act (EQA).

Quebec’s greenhouse gas regulatory regime, mainly the Regulation respecting mandatory reporting of certain emissions of contaminants into the atmosphere and the Regulation respecting a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emission allowances, is adopted pursuant the EQA.

In addition to greater fines, monetary administrative penalties may now be imposed by the Ministry’s relevant regional office director based only on his assessment of the file after a violation of the EQA is observed, without further investigation, collection of evidence or judicial procedures. A notice of violation will simply be sent, informing the contravener of the violation and amount of the fine, which may vary between $250 and $10,000, depending on the nature of the offence and whether it applies to a legal or natural person.

These amendments have an even greater impact on directors and officers whose participation in an offence under the EQA no longer has to be established by the Ministry to incur liability. Rather, if a legal person commits an offence under the EQA, its directors and officers are presumed to have committed the same offence unless they demonstrate their diligence.

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