Decision Date: September 24, 2019
Panel: Darrell Le Houillier
Keywords: Environmental Management Act – ss. 6(2), 115; Administrative Tribunals Act – s. 16; administrative penalty; emissions; unauthorized waste discharge; consent order
Princeton Standard Pellet Corporation (“PSPC”) owns and operates a wood pellet processing plant in Princeton, BC. In 2003, PSPC received a permit under the Environmental Management Act (the “Act”) authorizing the discharge of emissions to the air from one sawdust/shavings drier cyclone at the pellet plant. Sometime after the permit was issued, the sawdust/shavings drier was replaced by a triple pass drier.
In December 2014, the Ministry of Environment (the “Ministry”) inspected the pellet plant, and issued a warning that PSPC was contravening section 6 of the Act due to unauthorized discharges from the triple-pass and single-pass cyclones.
In May 2015, PSPC applied for a permit amendment. In June 2015, the Ministry requested further information from PSPC, and issued another warning of contraventions due to unauthorized discharges from the triple-pass and single-pass cyclones. Between July 2015 and late 2017, PSPC and the Ministry exchanged communications about various requirements for the permit amendment. The 2015 application was returned three times because it did not include all of the required information. In November 2017, PSPC submitted the required consultation report and proposed a change to its application.
In early 2018, PSPC decided to withdraw its 2015 application. In mid-2018, PSPC submitted the new application to the Ministry.
In July 2018, the Ministry inspected the pellet plant and issued a referral for administrative penalty for failure to comply with the permit due to the unauthorized works at the plant.
In early 2019, PSPC and the Ministry discussed arranging a meeting about PSPC’s new application.
In late March, 2019, the Ministry inspected the pellet plant and issued another referral for administrative penalty for contravention of section 6(2) of the Act, for discharging air emissions that were not authorized under the permit. PSPC responded to the warning, and provided an update on the status of the permit amendment application.
In June 2019, the Director issued a decision that PSPC had breached section 6(2) of the Act by discharging air waste from the pellet plant without a permit. The Director acknowledged that PSPC was engaged in the permitting process and had recently made meaningful steps to provide the required information. However, the Director found that PSPC did not take all reasonable measures to avoid the contravention. The Director issued an administrative penalty of $38,000 to PSPC pursuant to section 115 of the Act.
PSPC appealed the Director’s decision, and requested that the Board eliminate the administrative penalty. PSPC argued that its progress in seeking a permit amendment was adversely affected at times by a lack of communication from the Ministry.
Before the appeal was heard, the parties negotiated an agreement to resolve the appeal by reducing the administrative penalty to $18,000.
By consent of the parties, the Board reduced the administrative penalty to $18,000. The appeal was allowed, in part.