Canadian National Railway Company to pay over $2.5 million in penalties for environmental offences

News Release

June 16, 2017 – Edmonton, Alberta – Environment and Climate Change Canada

Canadians value a safe and clean environment. Environment and Climate Change Canada’s enforcement officers work hard every day to make sure people and companies are observing Canadian environmental laws.

On June 15, 2017, Canadian National Railway Company (CN) pleaded guilty, in the Provincial Court of Alberta, to one offence under the Fisheries Act and three offences under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. As a result, CN has been ordered to pay $2,500,000, which will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund. An additional fine of $125,000 was levied on May 25, 2017 in relation to the provincial charges laid by Alberta Environment and Parks, under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.

On April 9, 2015, Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers responded to a report of an oil sheen on the North Saskatchewan River. With assistance from the City of Edmonton’s Drainage Services’ staff, Environment and Climate Change Canada officers traced the substance over eight kilometres through Edmonton’s storm drain system to an engine fuelling station at CN’s Bissell Yard. 

A joint investigation with Alberta Environment and Parks determined that the oil-water separator and fuel storage system at Bissell Yard was not compliant with a number of requirements under the Storage Tank Systems for Petroleum and Allied Petroleum Products Regulations, which caused an estimated 90 litres of diesel to be released to the storm sewer. CN subsequently pleaded guilty, and it was sentenced for the following offences:

  • Deposit of a deleterious substance to fish-bearing water or to a place where it may enter fish-bearing water, in violation of the Fisheries Act, resulting in a $2,000,000 penalty;
  • Use of a centrifugal pump to transfer oil-contaminated water, in violation of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, resulting in a $150,000 penalty;
  • Failure to keep an emergency plan readily available, in violation of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, resulting in a $100,000 penalty;
  • Failure to withdraw and remove single-walled underground steel piping, in violation of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, resulting in a $250,000 penalty.
  • Release of a substance that may cause a significant adverse effect and failure to all reasonable measures to remediate after a release to the environment, in violation of the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, resulting in a $125,000 total penalty.

In addition, CN was ordered to remove over two kilometres of single-walled underground piping, at a cost of approximately $750,000.

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Quick Facts

  • As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the federal Environmental Offenders Registry.

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the pollution-prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act, which prohibit the deposit of deleterious substances into water frequented by fish.

  • The purpose of the Storage Tank Systems for Petroleum Products and Allied Petroleum Products Regulations is to reduce the risk of contaminating soil and water (surface and groundwater) due to spills and leaks of petroleum products from storage tank systems.

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