An environmental penalty can form the subject of an order by the Ministry of the Environment (w/o a decision of the courts) immediately following a spill to the environment. It is essentially an absolute liability offence (see my favourite case R v. Sault Ste. Marie). The regulation describing how the penalty is determined is a bit convoluted (and uses alot of discretion) but is a very good attempt at implementing a fairly strict policy.
One year ago the Ontairo Ministry of the Environment sent out the first environmnetal order under the new environmental penalties provisions in the Ontario Environmental Protection Act.
There have been 4 others since (at least) but only one person has really challenged the penalty itself…nothing has made it to court yet though. Still looking to see if there will be a court challenge to this absolute liability environmental law. Particularly because the Ministry can still lay a charge for a spill even if they levy an environmental penalty for the same spill.
Find out more from the Ministry website here.
There’s a great blog post about this (and a good blog in general) here.