As we previously reported, the Quebec government last month issued an omnibus cleanup order respecting the Lac-Mégantic disaster, including orders of questionable validity against shareholders of parties which may bear primary responsibility.
Folliwng the bankruptcy filing of the railroad operator, the Quebec government yesterday announced that it was expanding the scope of its cleanup order. In addition to naming an affiliate of the owner of the spilled petroleum, the amended order names the Canadian Pacific Railway as a party responsible for the cleanup.
The order states that the CPR was the party primarily contracted to transport the spilled oil from North Dakota to New Brunswick, had arranged transportation on the railroad on whose line the spill took place, and was therefore in custody and control of the oil at the time of the derailment.
The CPR immediately stated that it was not legally responsible and would appeal the order.
Section 114.1 of the Environmental Quality Act provides the Environment Minister authority to make cleanup orders as follows:
114.1. Where he considers that there is urgency, the Minister may order any person or municipality being the owner of certain contaminants or having had the custody or control thereof, to collect or to remove any contaminant dumped, emitted, issued or discharged into the water or onto the soil, accidentally or contrary to the provisions of this Act or the regulations of the Government, and to take the measures required to clean the water and the soil so that these contaminants cease to be spread or to propagate in the environment.
The relationship between the CPR and the railway on which the derailment took place will be key to any determination of liability, but as with the naming of shareholders and affiliates, it is difficult to see how the CPR was in custody or control of the oil at the time of the derailment.