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Great Lakes Article:

Ontario Plans to Toughen Environmental Laws Against Spills
By Joe Schneider
Bloomberg.com, Canada
Published October 8th, 2004


Ontario companies responsible for spills that damage the environment will have to pay immediate penalties of as much as C$100,000 ($80,000) a day under legislation proposed by the provincial government.

Under the new law, penalties can be levied by the Ministry of the Environment rather than by the courts, with charges of as much as C$20,000 per day for individuals and C$100,000 for corporations. The law will also impose tougher penalties on corporate officers and directors, including jail terms of as long as five years for convictions, the government said.

``Our message to polluters is simple: You spill, you pay,'' Premier Dalton McGuinty said in a statement.

Chemical companies such as Nova Chemicals Corp. in southwestern Ontario's ``chemical valley,'' mining companies such as Inco Ltd. and pulp and paper companies like Cascades Inc. may be most likely to be affected by the new law because their businesses involve materials that can hurt the environment if spilled. Cascades was fined C$10,000 last month for a spill that resulted in a black liquid leachate flowing into a drainage ditch and onto the ice of Lake Superior in 2002.

Leon Marineau, who is in charge of environmental affairs at Cascades, said he wasn't aware of the new legislation and declined to comment. Nova spokeswoman Stephanie Franken also declined to comment immediately. Inco officials didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

Fund

Currently, the Ministry of the Environment can lay charges and fines are imposed by the courts. The proposal will pass unless the government changes its mind, because the governing Liberal Party has a majority in the provincial legislature.

The government plans to bring the bill to the legislature by December, said Art Chamberlain, a spokesman for Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky. He said the government will consult with companies.

Companies will be able to appeal the fines to the Environmental Rights Tribunal, a government-appointed board, which can make decisions more quickly than courts, Chamberlain said.

The province also plans to create a cleanup fund to pay for repairs needed because of spills.


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