British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority v. Environmental Appeal Board

File Number:
BCSC 638

Decision Date: April 6, 2000 (oral reasons)

Court: S.C.B.C., Low, R. T. A.

Cite: Vancouver Registry No. A992600

This was a judicial review of the Environmental Appeal Board’s decision in Appeal Nos. 98-WAS-14(b) and 98-WAS-28(a). The Board found that BC Hydro and Power Authority was a “responsible person” for remediation at a contaminated site pursuant to section 26.5 of the Waste Management Act, as a result of its amalgamation with B.C. Electric Company and B.C. Power Commission on August 20, 1965. B.C. Electric had manufactured and delivered coal tar to the site for some years before the amalgamation.

BC Hydro argued that the Board erred in law in its interpretation of the final words of clause 1(c) of the amalgamation agreement which states:

(1) (c) The Authority … shall be liable for all duties, liabilities and obligations, whether conferred or imposed by statute or otherwise of each of the authority, the Company and the Commission immediately before the amalgamation. [emphasis added]

“Authority” refers to BC Hydro and “Company” refers to B.C. Electric.

BC Hydro argued that the plain meaning of the concluding words of that clause is that BC Hydro assumed only those duties, liabilities and obligations of B.C. Electric that existed prior to the amalgamation.

The Court disagreed. It stated that “The intent of the Waste Management Act is to make polluters responsible for the cleanup of environmental contamination.” As such, if B.C. Electric was still in existence as a separate legal person, it would have been subject to being found a “person responsible” for cleanup. The Court agreed with the Board that the words “immediately before the amalgamation” are not words of limitation. The purpose of clause 1(c) was to prevent the expiration of B.C. Electric’s legal responsibilities upon amalgamation by transferring those responsibilities to the new single entity formed from three pre-amalgamation entities. The words simply identified the date on which BC Hydro became the beneficiary of those duties, liabilities and obligations.

The Board’s decision was upheld. The petition was dismissed with costs.