Just as we predicted after R. v. Castonguay, the Ministry
of the Environment is aggressively prosecuting in new areas of the
economy, for not reporting events that are far from
conventional "pollution". This time, it was a
natural gas leak.
Three Ontario companies were fined
$17,500 for failing to
report a discharge of natural gas into the environment, contrary to
the Environmental Protection Act.
A natural gas line release occurred during an excavation at a
private residence located in Belleville. D. Koets Plumbing and
Heating LTD from Brighton was the general contractor, and Scaletta
Sand and Gravel Limited from Trenton was the sub-contractor and
provided the backhoe and operator. Union Gas Limited is the owner
of the infrastructure and the product, natural gas, which was
affected by the release.
During an excavation at the private residence, a rock fell from
the backhoe bucket and struck the natural gas line cutting it open.
Union Gas was contacted and had the gas shut off. The police and
fire department responded to the scene and a number of residences
were evacuated in the area. Ministry staff learned of the gas
release from a Belleville paper and later confirmed that the
natural gas release had not been reported to the ministry by any of
the above three parties.
Union Gas Limited was fined $7,500 plus a victim fine surcharge
of $1,875 and was given 3 months to pay the fine. The other two
companies were each fined $5,000 for a total of $10,000 plus victim
fine surcharges totalling $2,500, and were given 6 months to pay
As in Castonguay, the case report gives no evidence
that the MOE would have had anything useful to contribute to the
response to the incident, if it had received a report. Nor that the
natural gas caused any adverse effect, such as air or water
pollution. Nor that the MOE had, in advance, approached the natural
gas industry to tell them that it now wanted to receive reports of
the many leaks that occur each year. The only safe advice now:
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