Environmental Enforcement Discretions in Canada
The Government of Canada recognizes that Canadians and all businesses operating across Canada are facing extraordinary circumstances during the COVID-19 pandemic. While Environment and Climate Change Canada will not waive any environmental laws, on March 20, they issued a letter that stated "environmental discretion" will be taken for those who may face challenges with compliance due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is recommended that regulated parties who find themselves in non-compliance should, to the extent possible, document the nature and dates of non-compliance, how COVID-19 contributed to the non-compliance, and the actions taken to prevent or minimize any risk to human health and the environment. Several Provinces in Canada are taking different approaches than Environment and Climate Change Canada. See below for specific guidance.
- The Minister of Environment and Parks, issued Order 15/2020 and Order 16/2020, which relaxed certain reporting requirements under the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) Regulation and the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) Regulation, respectively.
- Order 17/2020, issued by the Minister relaxed requirements under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA) )PDF), the Water Act (WA) (PDF), and the Public Lands Act (PLA).
- The Director of Air Policy issued a temporary amendment to requirements under the Air Monitoring Directive (AMD).
- The Minister of Energy issued Order 219/2020 (PDF) which relaxed requirements under the Oil and Gas Conservation Act (OGCA) (PDF), Coal Conservation Act (CCA) (PDF), and Oil Sands Conservation Act (OSCA) (PDF).
- See links above for more information.
- The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy (MOE) has issued a notice stating that authorization requirements under the Environmental Management Act (EMA) and the Integrated Pest Management Act (IPMA) remain in effect and all reasonable measures should be taken to comply. If an authorization holder is unable to meet its requirements due to the impact of orders, directives or guidance issued by B.C. in response to COVID-19, the MOE requires notice of the non-compliance, including a rationale as to how the compliance issue is related to COVID-19 and information on mitigative measures being taken.
- Notice regarding non-compliance pursuant to the EMA must be provided to firstname.lastname@example.org, while notice regarding non-compliance pursuant to the IPMA must be provided to email@example.com.
- On April 1, 2020, OIC 158/2020 was approved to amend regulations made pursuant to the Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting and Control Act which gives the director discretion to accept incomplete emission reports or compliance reports for the reporting period ending December 31, 2019 (2019 GHG Reporting), and to provide up to six months for the missing information to be provided.
- The Government of Ontario has promised guidance relating to requirements for monitoring and reporting during the COVID-19 crisis, but thus far no guidance has been provided and all monitoring and reporting obligations under regulations and approvals remain in force.
- The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks has announced that it is temporarily exempting all Ontario Ministries from the requirement to post proposals for instruments on the Environmental Registry
- The Quebec Ministry of the Environment and Fight against Climate Change (MELCC) has issued guidance on its website regarding compliance inspection activities during the COVID-19 state of emergency. Under the MELCC guidance, businesses must do everything they can to avoid causing damage to the environment and they must continue to comply with legal obligations for situations that may have a direct impact on the health and safety of the population as well as on the quality of the environment.
- The MELCC has also indicated that it will be tolerant with businesses whose ability to comply with environmental obligations are affected by the restrictions put in place as a result of the COVID-19 emergency measures, particularly in relation to compliance with administrative requirements, such as requirement to transmit reports.
- The MELCC has also announced that it will temporarily exempt companies who seek to convert their operations in order to participate in efforts to combat COVID-19 from obtaining environmental authorization that would normally be required to modify an activity.
Heather Nortz is the Sustainability Programs Coordinator for PRINTING United Alliance. Her primary responsibilities consist of running both the Sustainable Business Recognition and Safety Recognition Award Programs. She also contributes to industry specific research on matters of sustainability trends and environmental safety and health regulations. She regularly publishes articles and blog posts on these topics and consistently updates the PRINTING United Alliance website with advocacy related content. Nortz recently graduated from George Mason University with her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and a concentration in Human and Ecosystems Response to Climate Change.