Canadian High Court Upholds “Polluter Pays” Principle

While the “polluter pays” principle struggles here in the U.S., our neighbors to the north have resoundingly reaffirmed it. In a unanimous decision, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled yesterday that companies that pollute must pay for the damage they cause. The case in question concerned Imperial Oil, which, in 1998, was ordered by the Quebec Ministry of the Environment to clean up pollution that had leaked from company storage tanks to contaminate the ground beneath 20 homes. Jerry DeMarco, managing lawyer for the Sierra Legal Defense Fund, called the ruling against Imperial and in favor of the polluter-pays principle “one of the great environmental law victories in Canadian history.” If the court had ruled otherwise, some 30,000 sites in Canada could have remained contaminated.