1. Further to our presentation of May 12, 2005, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper offers the following comments on the proposed amendments to Bill 133.
2. Lake Ontario Waterkeeper wishes to acknowledge that, despite a number of amendments, the core principles of Bill 133 remain intact. First, Environmental Penalties remain absolute liability penalties, ensuring that downstream communities will receive assistance if affected by spills. This principle is essential for protecting Ontario communities.
3. Second, Environmental Penalties still represents a code of conduct for business in Ontario, rather than a substitute for important voluntary and mandatory abatement efforts.
4. Lake Ontario Waterkeeper is pleased to see that two important amendments have been made. First, the Ministry will now be required to publish annual and five-year reports.
5. Second, the Ministry will now publish every agreement made to reduce or cancel an Environmental Penalty on the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry. Together, these amendments will help to ensure transparency and efficacy of Environmental Penalties.
6. There are a few ways that the government can still strengthen Bill 133.
7. First, Subsection 15(1) of the Environmental Protection Act should require that every person who discharges a contaminant shall forthwith notify the Ministry regardless of whether or not the discharge causes or is likely to cause an adverse effect. It is not in the public interest to allow the person or persons responsible for the discharge to conclude whether or not the discharge is likely to cause an adverse effect. Rather, the emphasis should be on prompt notification and remediation of all spills.
8. Second, all information relating to the investigation, issuing, and negotiation of Environmental Penalties must be available to the public through the Freedom of Information process. Particularly because the power to issue Environmental Penalties is now concentrated with the Director(s), the public is entitled to the utmost transparency. Information would include, but is not limited to, field reports, recommendations of officers, schedules and minutes of meetings with corporations and lobbyists as they relate to the Environmental Penalty, etc.
9. Third, in order to ensure that the appeals process to the Environmental Review Tribunal is fair, there must be funding available to the community to participate in this appeals process. Since Environmental Penalties are designed to protect and assist downstream communities, it is essential that they have the resources to participate in any appeals. This is particularly important because the corporations who have received Environmental Penalties have a direct economic incentive to challenge these penalties. The public must have a voice throughout every step of the process.
10. Thank you for your attention.