Environment and Climate Change Canada has used updated
legislation to crack down and levy large fines on non-compliant dry
cleaners. Convicted dry cleaners have faced fines ranging from
$9,500 to $60,000 regardless of their prior history of compliance
with the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA). One
dry cleaner has even been sentenced to jail time for non-compliance
with the Tetrachloroethylene Regulations.
In 2012, the Environmental Enforcement Act (EEA) amended the
Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) to impose
tougher punishments on certain contraventions of CEPA, including
contravention under the Tetrachloroethylene Regulations. As a
result, designated serious offences carry heftier fine ranges with
mandatory minimum fines. (See chart.)
Second and subsequent offences can result in double fines. If
convicted, directors and officers of corporations can be subject to
the same fines as the corporations themselves under CEPA.
In addition to changes to the fine scheme, the EEA also
increases the limitation period for Environment and Climate Change
Canada to institute summary proceedings from two to five years.
Since June 2012, several dry cleaning companies have been
prosecuted for offences under CEPA that carry the elevated
penalties prescribed by the EEA. For example:
In 2013, a dry cleaning company was
fined $60,000 for multiple offences including improper storage and
containment of tetrachloroethylene waste water and residue.
In 2014, a dry cleaning company was
fined $9,500 for improper storage of tetrachloroethylene and for
not having proper secondary containment present.
In 2015, a dry cleaning company was
fined $25,000 for improper storage of tetrachloroethylene.
New Fine Scheme under the Environmental Enforcement
*Small Revenue Corporations are considered to be corporations
with revenues under $5,000,000 in the 12 months preceding the
offence in question.
In 2016, a dry cleaning company was
fined $36,000 for improper storage and disposal of
DIRECTORS IN THE HOT SEAT
Companies are not the only target for Environment and Climate
Change Canada prosecutions. Directors and officers also attract
liability under the new legislative framework. For example:
In 2013, the director of a dry
cleaning company was personally fined $10,000 for his
corporation's improper storage and containment of
In 2015, the director of a dry
cleaning company was personally fined $15,000 for his
corporation's improper storage of tetrachloroethylene and
absence of tetrachloroethylene- resistant drain plugs.
Fines are not the only penalties being sought by Environment and
Climate Change Canada.
In February 2016, for the first time ever, the owner of a dry
cleaning facility received a four-month conditional jail sentence
after pleading guilty to contraventions of the Tetrachloroethylene
Regulations. Dry cleaning businesses operated by the owner had been
subject to two previous convictions under CEPA. Environment and
Climate Change Canada investigations over the course of 14 months
found improper storage and handling of tetrachloroethylene and
tetrachloroethylene waste. In deciding that a jail sentence was
appropriate, the Court focused on the owner's repeated
non-compliance despite being made aware of the regulations and the
dangers of mishandling tetrachloroethylene.
Other dry cleaning companies, and their directors and officers,
have also been charged but have negotiated out of court settlements
where the charges were not pursued in exchange for negotiated
terms. Negotiated terms included attendance at education seminars
on dry cleaning operations, posting public notices of
non-compliance and proper handling practices, and payment to the
Environmental Damages Fund.
Environment and Climate Change Canada is actively prosecuting
dry cleaners for contraventions of CEPA and is seeking the
increased penalties prescribed by the EEA for convictions. A strong
message is being sent by the Court – regulatory compliance
must be taken seriously. If not, penalties can deprive you not only
of your business profits, but potentially your freedom.
All dry cleaners should take the time to protect themselves and
their operations by refreshing their memories about the
requirements for their operations under CEPA, the
Tetrachloroethylene Regulations, provincial laws and municipal
bylaws, and ensuring all aspects of the dry cleaning facilities and
operations are in compliance.
Originally published in Fabricare Canada magazine.
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