Québec introduces tougher sanctions for environmental protectionBy Neda Esmailzadeh
In an effort to reinforce compliance, the Environment Quality Act (EQA) was recently amended to include harsher sanctions. The following paragraphs provide an overview of the changes.
Who is subject to the EQA?
The general application of the law means that it concerns individuals, corporations, cooperatives and legal persons, including businesses and municipalities. It should also be noted that the law accounts for the responsibility of the administrators, executives and shareholders of corporate entities.
Administrative monetary penalties
The changes brought to the EQA entail administrative sanctions imposed by the Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et des Parcs (MDDEP) consisting in fines of between $250 and $2 000 for individuals and $1 000 and $10 000 for corporations for specific types of non-compliance. For example, contaminant emissions or the failure to obtain a mandatory authorization, meet any related conditions or submit the compulsory reports and assessments may result in administrative monetary penalties. These provisions came into effect in February 2012.
The fines will be imposed by officials appointed by the MDDEP, who will send out notices of non-compliance before processing the claim notices. The MDDEP may then reassess the penalty in the 30 days that follow. The department's decision may be appealed within 60 days before the Tribunal administratif du Québec (TAQ).
The new changes increase the sanctions that were already set out under the law. For example, the penalties for corporations of between $200 and $20 000 now vary between $1 000 and $1 000 000, depending on the infraction. In fact, the increases now affect administrators and executives in addition to the corporations themselves.
The period of limitation is now five years following the date of the infraction.
Administrative powers of the Minister
The Minister was granted significant powers to take all measures necessary to ensure compliance. In addition to having the power to order the discontinuance or dismantling of work and restoration of a site at an offender's expense, the Minister may also deny, modify, suspend or revoke authorizations when, for example, an individual was found to be in violation of the EQA in the two years prior.
These changes are only some of the amendments brought to the EQA. Considering the extent of the modifications, we recommend that you consult the Web site of the MDDEP at http://www.mddep.gouv.qc.ca/lqe/index.htm (in French only). Also, do not hesitate to contact an attorney for more information on the impacts that these amendments may have on your particular situation.