Monday, July 28, 2014

How Liable Are Cities Potentially for Not Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Allowing Traffic and Vehicle Emissions to Increase?

English: A schematic of the global air polluti...
English: A schematic of the global air pollution. The map was made by User:KVDP using the GIMP. It was based on the global air pollution map by the ESA (see , ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Current environmental liability issues for municipalities (20 page Word doc, Graham Rempe, Dianne Saxe, Osgoode Professional Development, Jun.17, 2014) 

Also discussed here:Current environmental liability issues for municipalities (Meredith James, Envirolaw, Jun. 26, 2014) 

Today we review an interesting discussion paper that analyzes legal cases where failure to act or incorrect actions by municipalities resulted in contamination of the soil or groundwater with legal consequences for the municipalities involved. The accountability was particularly true when the health of humans or animals was threatened. One has to ask why municipalities do not have an obligation to manage traffic and vehicle emissions when these clearly are a major cause, if not the largest cause in some cases, of hastened climate change impacts or of pollution levels which have a direct impact on the health of their citizens. Especially when several far-sighted cities such as London UK, Stockholm and Singapore have demonstrated that application of congestion pricing and other measures within their mandates (as it is in Ontario) reduces traffic and improves air quality. Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act stipulates that “The only precondition is a reasonable belief that the ordered activities will prevent or reduce contamination of the natural environment”. 

What are cities waiting for- a law suit? If they are they do not need to wait very long at the rate that the climate is changing because of municipal inaction.

 Key Quotes: 

 “Few topics evoke more concern about “vast” liability than environmental mishaps. Municipalities and their legal advisors are well advised to carefully monitor developments in this area, where liability is writ large.” 

“s. 18 of Ontario's Environmental Protection Act ("EPA") applies to any person who "owns or owned or who has or had management or control of an undertaking or property". …provides for a number of measures, from monitoring and reporting, to planning and implementing remediation. The only precondition is a reasonable belief that the ordered activities will prevent or reduce contamination of the natural environment… These orders can be and are issued to municipalities” 

“The EPA provides that any prior conviction under a number of environmental statutes including the EPA, the Ontario Water Resources Act, the Pesticides Act, and others, is considered…municipalities can find themselves routinely exposed to mandatory minimum fines of $100,000 (and which may go as high as $10 million per offence).” 

“By following levels of air pollution and respiratory health over time, we could measure changes prior to and after implementation of these policies. Our study leverages these collected data in a way that it can contribute to the dialogue on whether pollution controls are effective in improving public health.” 

 “They analyzed a 17-year period after a variety of federal air pollution measures were instituted. Among others, national requirements lowered emissions from automotive engines, chemical plants and coal-fired power plants, and also targeted emissions that contributed to acid rain and depletion of the ozone layer of the atmosphere.” 

"the measures were designed to decrease carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and other compounds in the air that are considered major public health concerns, playing a role in an estimated 1.4 percent of deaths worldwide, and 2 percent of all cardio-pulmonary deaths worldwide.”

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