The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench has provided clarity on the application of Alberta’s Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act to limitation periods for contamination claims. In Paramount Resources Ltd v Grey Owl Engineering Ltd, 2022 ABQB 333, the Court found that s. 218 of the Act could not save a pipeline owner’s claim against an engineering firm whose allegedly negligent work contributed to a spill.
Section 218 of the Act permits a judge to extend a limitation period where the basis for the proceeding may be an adverse effect resulting from the alleged release of a substance into the environment. In this case, the plaintiff commenced an action against the defendant after the 10-year ultimate limitation period had passed and argued that s. 218 of the Act permitted an extension of the limitation period allowing the action to proceed.
In considering whether the limitation period should be extended under s.218, the Court noted the objective of the section was to ensure there was someone to pay for the cost of environmental damage that would otherwise be borne by society. The section is not intended to remedy unfairness between responsible parties of environmental remediation but is focused on the societal injustice that can result when polluters escape expensive remediation bills which can go undetected for long periods.
Paramount confirms that s. 218 of the Act is an exceptional remedy and will not be available to parties responsible for contamination who then seek damages in negligence against other third parties who may have contributed to the contamination.
This post was co-authored by Nicola Virk, and articling student Eric Mo.
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