Effective June 23, 2014, new administrative penalties may be
issued for breaches of certain provisions of British Columbia's
Environmental Management Act, the Integrated Pest
Management Act, and permits issued under these Acts.
Administrative penalties are an increasingly popular means of
enforcing environmental obligations because they may be issued
without having to establish liability through a court process.
Under the new law, a person may not apply for or amend a permit
or approval until the administrative penalty is paid in full. The
Ministry of Environment will also publish names, reasons for
penalty, and penalty amounts in the publicly searchable
Environmental Violations database and the Quarterly Environmental
Use of Administrative Penalties
According to the new regulations, administrative penalties are
intended for moderate offences that merit more than a warning or
ticket, but do not justify a criminal prosecution.
Examples of offences to which administrative penalties may be
applied include discharging waste without a required authorization,
releasing substances into the environment that exceed what is
permitted under an authorization or regulation, and administrative
non-compliance, such as a failure to submit a monitoring
The new administrative penalty program brings the Ministry of
Environment in line with provincial agencies such as the Ministry
of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the BC Oil
and Gas Commission and with other federal and provincial
administrative penalty programs.
Penalty Amounts and Enforcement
There are four categories of penalties with maximum penalty
limits of $2,000, $10,000, $40,000 and $75,000 per day. Only
contraventions that pose a significant risk to the environment or
human health or safety have been prescribed a $75,000 maximum.
Administrative non-compliance will generally be subject to lower
maximums. There are no fixed penalties and no minimum penalties.
Penalties are calculated on a case-by-case basis.
In determining the administrative penalty amount, the regulator
the nature of the contravention;
the real or potential adverse effect of the contravention;
any previous contraventions by, administrative penalties
imposed on, or orders issued to the person;
whether the contravention was repeated or continuous;
whether the contravention was deliberate;
any economic benefit derived by the person from the
whether the person exercised due diligence to prevent the
the person's efforts to correct the contravention;
the person's efforts to prevent recurrence of the
any other relevant factors.
The regulations also state that the due diligence defence is not
available for a contravention for which an administrative penalty
An administrative penalty must be paid within 30 days of the
final determination or the decision of the Environmental Appeal
Board if the final determination is appealed or sent back for
Notice of Penalties and Right to Hearing
If the regulator intends to impose an administrative penalty for
an alleged contravention, the regulator must send written notice to
the person describing the circumstances that gave rise to the
alleged contravention and a preliminary assessment of the penalty
amount. The notice must be served within 3 years of the date of the
alleged contravention or the date when evidence of it came to the
knowledge of the regulator.
Upon receipt of this notice, a person has 30 days to request an
opportunity to make representations. Upon receiving such a request,
the regulator must conduct a hearing and issue a final
determination on whether to impose the penalty and if so, the
penalty amount. The final determination must also include reasons
for the decision, when the penalty must be paid, and information on
the person's right to appeal the determination to the
Environmental Appeal Board.
What This Means for You
While the new regulations do not create new offences under the
Environmental Management Act or Integrated Pest
Management Act, they do introduce a new enforcement tool for
the BC Ministry of Environment. Anyone who receives notice of an
administrative penalty ought to consider whether to seek an
opportunity to be heard in order to limit the possible financial
penalty that may be imposed.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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