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Environmental law and the regulation of environmental issues that impact on everyone having any kind of contact with the environment is a constant concern. It requires careful attention to the issues and the assistance of experienced, knowledgeable counsel with a demonstrated background in dealing with these matters. The environmental law team at Mann Lawyers has the knowledge and experience necessary to help owners navigate this challenging legal arena.
At Mann Lawyers, our environmental lawyers are exceptionally skilled in dealing with all aspects of environmental law, from ligation to regulatory matters to orders issued by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks and the federal Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. Our clients can have confidence that they have chosen lawyers who are not only remarkably well-qualified, but who also understand all of the issues, risk and challenges that may arise when dealing with environmental matters.
The field of environmental law is constantly growing and evolving and our environmental lawyers are at the forefront of the field, having been involved in several precedent setting decisions over the past 20 years.
Over 100 Years of Combined Experience
Servicing Ottawa Since 1994
Fluent in English and French
Mann Lawyers’ environmental lawyers have considerable and valuable experience in this important and ever-changing area of the law. Michael Hebert’s pioneering work in Tridan v. Shell established precedent-setting rules to assist land owners achieve full and proper compensation for environmental damage to their lands.
Michael Hebert and Cheryl Gerhardt McLuckie have assisted clients with contaminated lands, whether that contamination has been caused by:
- Off-site migration of gasoline, hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds and other chemicals;
- Fuel spills;
- Truck rollovers; or
- Oil tank leakage
In the complex and specific area of landfills, we have assisted neighbouring landholders with their concerns over:
- Gases; and
Environmental Offences Defence
Clients who deal with environmental matters face a wide spectrum of orders and prosecutions by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservations and Parks and the federal Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. These include directions in respect of contaminated lands and regulatory orders and directions that can have wide ranging impacts and enormous cost consequences. The environmental lawyers at Mann Lawyers are experienced in defending these Orders on behalf of our clients.
In addition to our advocacy services, the environmental lawyers at Mann Lawyers are skilled and experienced in providing advice to clients who own or occupy contaminated property on issues such as:
- Environmental regulatory compliance;
- Reporting obligations;
- Risk management;
- Remediation strategies;
- Director’s and officer’s liability;
- Third party liability; and
- The duties of landlords and tenants in respect of environmental issues and compliance obligations.
We also provide advice to mortgagees in taking and enforcing mortgages on lands where environmental issues are or may be present.
Brownfield Redevelopment Projects
We also provide advice to developers and individuals considering Brownfield Redevelopment Projects by:
- Providing assistance in the assessment of sites;
- Advising on the availability of and application for grants;
- Advising on various remediation options, and working with professional engineers;
- Giving detailed risk assessment counsel; and
- Providing thorough opinions on third party liability issues.
To learn more about our Environmental Law service area and some of the legal issues as they may arise, please visit our Environmental Law blog.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is environmental contamination?
Environmental contamination can mean a variety of things. Often, it occurs when there are levels of contaminants present in the soil and / or groundwater of a property. These contaminants may be oils or petroleum based products, chemicals, metals or other organic or inorganic materials that are present at levels higher than what would normally be expected. Contamination may result from historical activities on or near the property or a spill on or near the property. Environmental contamination may also refer to the condition of a structure or building, such as the presence of mould.
I have discovered contamination – what do I do?
What steps might be taken when contamination is discovered can differ significantly depending on what has been found, where it has been found and what might have caused it. For example, if you have discovered a spill of contaminants on your own property, you may have an obligation to report to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. If you find contamination has come onto your property from a neighbouring property, you may have recourse against your neighbour. Regardless of the circumstances, it is important that you are aware of your rights and obligations from the outset. This is where the environmental law team at Mann Lawyers can help.
I have an engineer, why do I need a lawyer?
Engineers play a critical role in an environmental matter. Often, it is your engineer who will discover that you have environmental contamination. A lawyer plays a different role. A lawyer will work with your engineer to understand the environmental issue that you face, but only a lawyer can fully advise you of your rights and obligations. Our environmental law team works closely with engineers on a daily basis, and have gained a wealth of knowledge of the technical aspects of environmental issues. Our lawyers then use this knowledge to pursue the best solution for our clients, be it to advance our clients’ claims or defend and action or charges against our clients.
What do environmental lawyers do?
Environmental lawyers engage in numerous different aspects of environmental issues, from advising on real estate transactions and Brownfields sites to defending prosecutions by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks to litigating claims in court. To be able to effectively operate in all of these arenas, environmental lawyers must have the skills to analyze highly technical environmental information and also knowledge of the relevant statutes, regulations and legal authorities. It is with these tools that we can develop an appropriate strategy to achieve the best result possible for you.
What do I look for in an environmental lawyer?
It is important to look for an environmental lawyer with knowledge and experience in the field. Environmental law changes frequently and significantly, and it is very important that the environmental lawyer that you choose is knowledgeable about the current state of the law. Our environmental team has this knowledge and also a wealth of experience. We have been involved in numerous precedent setting and groundbreaking court cases over our many years of practice in environmental law.
If I start an action, what can I hope to recover?
If you have suffered environmental contamination, the primary objective it to remediate the damage, either by having the party at fault carry out remedial work or compensate you for the cost to remediate. In addition, there may be other damages for which you may be compensated, including engineering costs and diminution in value to your property. Our environmental law team works hard to achieve the best result possible for you.
Why do I need a lawsuit if the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks is involved?
The Ministry may become involved in an environmental matter if you report contamination that you have discovered that you allege has been caused by someone else. There are many steps that the Ministry can take to assist with the resolution of an environmental matter, including requests that actions be taken, or, where required, issuing orders. However, it is important to remember that the Ministry likely cannot fully remedy someone for environmental impacts. If you are negatively impacted by contamination, you may be entitled to damages, which the Ministry cannot award to you. It may therefore be necessary for you to start a lawsuit even though the Ministry is involved.
Is my case likely to go to trial?
Just like other types of litigation, every effort is made to resolve environmental claims before trial. We are committed to achieving the best outcome for you, which can often be done through negotiations. These negotiations can be informal, through discussions, or formal, through mediation. There are many opportunities to attempt to resolve a case before trial.
What do I do if my property is the source of contamination?
If your property has suffered a spill or is the source of contamination that is impacting on others, it is very important that you consult with a lawyer very quickly. There may be immediate steps that you need to take, and it is important that you know your obligations. The owner of a source property may face orders as well as claims. We are here to provide you with advice and the best defence available.
Do I have a duty to report?
Section 92(1) of the Environmental Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.19 provides that every person having control of a pollutant that is spilled and every person who spills or causes a spill of a pollutant has a duty to report that spill and the steps taken or intended to be taken in respect of the spill to: (a) the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks; (b) the municipality; (c) where the person reporting is not the owner of the pollutant and is able to ascertain the owner, the owner of the pollutant; and (d) where the person reporting is not in control of the pollutant and is able to ascertain the person in control, the person in control of the pollutant. Failure to report is an offence under the Act.
What do I do if I have been contacted by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks?
The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks can become involved where there has been a reported spill, where there has been a report of contamination discovered or where there has been an inspection of a property or business that is subject to environmental compliance requirements. If you are contacted by the Ministry, you want to be fully informed of your rights and obligations at the earliest possible opportunity. We have considerable experience in dealing with the Ministry, and can provide you with advice and assistance with your response to the Ministry.
What is it like to deal with the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks?
The Ministry serves many different functions. The Ministry is responsible for the administration of undertakings which are regulated under Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act, such as waste management sites, industries which generate hazardous wastes and industries which have the potential to negatively impact the environment. It is the Ministry who you will need to apply to and deal with to get the approvals necessary to operate these types of undertakings.
The Ministry is also responsible for enforcement of violations of the Environmental Protection Act. If you or your business are the subject of enforcement, your first contact will be by a Provincial Officer. Depending on the severity of the issue, you may or may not be faced with a Provincial Officer’s Order from the outset. Generally, at the point of first contact, the Ministry will request that steps be taken to determine the extent of the issue and to prevent adverse effects. In some circumstances, voluntary measures can be taken which are satisfactory to the Ministry and no orders will be issued. In other cases, Orders may be issued. Orders are subject to an appeal process as set out in the Act.
I want to buy a property, but it is contaminated. What do I do?
There is a solution for most contaminated properties. The key is to find the solution that is best for that property at a reasonable cost. We can provide you with the advice you need to make an informed decision about the purchase of contaminated property.
What are the differences between the federal and provincial environmental regimes?
There are different laws which apply depending on what lands are affected. If there is contamination present on lands owned by the federal government, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, S.C. 1999, c. 33, as amended, will apply as to what guidelines are applicable to determine whether contaminants are at levels that are permitted or not. The federal Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change may also investigate offences under that statute where an individual has applied for an investigation. The statute also provides for a right for an individual to bring an environmental protection action if the Minister has failed to conduct the requested investigation or if the Minister’s response was unreasonable. The action may be brought against a person who committed the offence that was alleged in the application for investigation and that caused significant harm to the environment. The statute also provides a statutory right to bring an action to any person who suffers, or is about to suffer, loss or damage as a result of conduct that contravenes any provision of the Act or the regulations and allows for the seeking of injunctive relief to cease the offensive conduct or to prevent the loss. In addition to injunctive relief, the statute provides for a statutory cause of action to seek damages for the loss. The federal statute also gives authority for the issuing of charges and other enforcement measures which may be undertaken by federally appointed Enforcement Officers. It also provides authority for federal regulations and policy on environmental matters.
In Ontario, the governing legislation is generally the province’s Environmental Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E. 19. It is the regulations under this statute that contain the guidelines applicable to any non-federally owned lands in the province as to the allowable limits for contaminants. It is the provincial statute under which the provincial Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks is given authority to take administrative and enforcement measures in respect of lands and undertakings in Ontario. The provincial statute also provides for a statutory right of action, in s. 99, for the recovery of compensation for expenses incurred to remediate contamination from the polluter where the contamination is the result of a spill.
I am very thankful for the guidance from Nigel McKechnie of Mann Lawyers. During an emotionally challenged situation that required legal assistance, I relied on Nigel for direction. He handled the situation with both directness and compassion, I never doubted his advice. I am nothing but grateful for Nigel and the team at Mann Lawyers.