This case was heard in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.
Soon after the Praczes purchased a new home, inclement weather caused their oil tank to tip over, and oil was spilled on the property. The Praczes notified Esso Home Comfort ("Esso"), their oil supplier, along with their legal counsel and the contractor who installed the tank. In turn, Esso notified the Department of the Environment, which made arrangements to inspect the site.
An inspector with the Department of the Environment inspected the site and immediately issued a field order directing the Praczes to contain the oil spill. Soon afterwards, the Department issued a Ministerial Order reiterating the same. When the Praczes did not comply with the Ministerial Order, the Department engaged a contractor to do the work that was required, and in due course the Department laid charges against the Praczes for failing to comply with the Order. It also issued two additional Ministerial Orders—one requiring the Praczes to repay the money that the Department had spent to contain the spill, and the other requiring the Praczes to remediate the site.
The Praczes appealed to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, arguing that the Ministerial Orders were unreasonable and that the Department should not have issued them without giving the Praczes an opportunity to make representations. The Praczes argued, among other things, that the Ministerial Orders took it for granted that they were responsible for the spill, despite the fact that, in their view, their contractor was responsible.
After considering the Praczes' arguments and the relevant law and legal principles, the Court held that the Ministerial Orders had not been issued unreasonably. Whether or not the Praczes could eventually prove that their contractor was responsible for the spill, as the owners of the property they were “persons responsible” under the Environment Act, and were therefore obliged to comply with the Ministerial Orders. The Praczes' appeal was therefore dismissed.