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Environmental Assessment

Lessons from a summer at West Coast

12 August, 2016

West Coast Environmental Law Association was lucky to have four talented students join us this summer from law schools across the country. As the season winds down, our summer law students share their reflections on an exciting few months learning about the ins and outs of environmental law.

From left to right: Alex Kirby, Sina Kazemi, Monisha Sebastian and Brianna Meyer.

Addressing cumulative effects in BC's north

30 May, 2016

Today, in conjunction with the Northwest Institute for Bioregional Research (NWI), West Coast Environmental Law is releasing our report Regional Strategic Environmental Assessment for Northern British Columbia: The Case and Opportunity.  The report offers an intimate glimpse into the hearts and minds of northern residents as they face a multitude of proposals for industrial development in their communities, including liquefied natural gas (LNG), forestry, mining, oil and gas, and hydroelectric projects.

Today, in conjunction with the Northwest Institute for Bioregional Research (NWI), West Coast Environmental Law is releasing our report Regional Strategic Environmental Assessment for Northern British Columbia: The Case and Opportunity. The report offers an intimate glimpse into the hearts and minds of northern residents as they face a multitude of proposals for

Working towards a next-generation environmental assessment law for Canada

20 May, 2016

On May 1-3, West Coast Environmental Law hosted a Federal Environmental Assessment Reform Summit in Ottawa. Over 30 lawyers, academics and practitioners, representing universities, Indigenous and environmental groups and industry attended the Summit. They gathered to discuss, crystallize their thinking, weigh options and seek to find common ground on solutions to key issues in federal EA. Staff Counsel Anna Johnson shares her reflections on the Summit and Canada’s once-in-decades opportunity to enact a visionary new next-generation environmental assessment law for nature and democracy.

Rarely does environmental assessment get to be sexy.  While environmental assessment (EA) processes and decisions have been increasingly subject to lawsuits, criticism and protests, the target of dissent is usually either the project (say, Kinder Morgan’s controversial proposed oil sands pipeline) or the r

Province Can't Pass the Buck on Oil Pipelines: BC Supreme Court

14 January, 2016

West Coast has previously suggested that, in spite of the Province of British Columbia’s “tough talk” on oil pipelines, it has been trying to pass the decision-making buck to the federal government’s National Energy Board (NEB).  A year ago, the Gitga’at First Nation and Coastal First Nations (CFN) sought a court declaration that the provincial government was required to make its own decision about whether to issue a provincial Environmental Assessment (EA) Certificate for the Enbridge Northern Gateway project, and to consult with First Nations before doing so. Now, in a judgment released January 13, the BC Supreme Court found that, although BC’s Environmental Assessment Act provides BC authority to cooperate with the federal government to avoid duplicating EAs, BC must nonetheless make its own decision about issuing an EA Certificate. What what does that mean for Enbridge Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan?

West Coast has previously suggested that, in spite of the Province of British Columbia’s “tough talk” on oil pipelines, it has been trying to pass the decision-making buck to the federal government’s National Energy Board (NEB).

Day 5: Northern Gateway seeks to defend the "gold standard" review process

7 October, 2015

Day 5 of 6 – we are on the home stretch! Today we heard from Northern Gateway about what it labelled the “gold standard” approach to consultation and review for the project as a whole. Counsel for Northern Gateway argued that Northern Gateway went ‘above and beyond’ the legal requirements of the process, at great cost. Join us tomorrow for the last day of the hearing. We will hear about the definition of ‘public interest’ from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). Finally, the applicants will have a chance to reply to the arguments we have heard thus far. Looking forward to it!

Day 5 of 6. A core group of concerned community members persisted in the courtroom and listened intently to the dynamic exchanges between the judges and counsel for the Respondents. The judges started the day by addressing Northern Gateway’s last minute attempt to introduce fresh evidence. The judges unanimously rejected the admission of Northern Gateway’s fresh evidence and questioned the relevance of this evidence this late in the Court proceedings.  

Day 3: Environmental and labour organizations challenge Enbridge approval

5 October, 2015

Another day down at the Federal Court of Appeal in Vancouver and just like that we are half way through the six day Enbridge hearing. Today we heard arguments from four environmental organizations and one labour union - all challenging the legal basis for the Enbridge pipeline approval. Tomorrow, Canada seeks to defend its position. Hold onto your hats, it’s a true legal showdown. 

First up this morning, Chris Tollefson presented arguments on behalf of BC Nature, a B.C.-based conservation group. BC Nature’s main argument is that the Joint Review Panel (JRP) failed to conduct a fulsome assessment of the potential environmental impacts of a large oil spill despite having a legal duty to do so under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA). Under section 19 of the CEAA, environmental assessments must include an analysis of “malfunctions or accidents” that may occur in relation to a project.

Yinka Dene Alliance kick off Day 2 of the Enbridge hearing

2 October, 2015

Day 2: Another inspired and spirited day at the Enbridge Hearing! The courtroom was jam-packed all day as lawyers for the Nak’azdli, Nadleh Whut’en, Gitga’at and Gitxaała Nations presented their arguments. This wrapped up the submissions from the eight First Nations applicants. Next Monday, October 5th, four environmental organizations and a labour union will make their case against the Enbridge approval so… stay tuned!

Spirits remained high in the 8th floor courtroom even as a dense fog settled on downtown Vancouver. The courtroom was jam-packed all day long while lawyers representing the Nak’azdli, Nadleh Whut’en, Gitga’at and Gitxaała Nations made their cases. Watching the proceedings on a video-screen in an overflow room felt a bit like going to a matinee movie screening. Except with less popcorn and far more mention of “jurisdictional mazes”.

Day 1 of Enbridge hearings: #UnitedAgainstEnbridge in the courtroom and on the streets

1 October, 2015

Four First Nations made their case in front of the Federal Court of Appeal today while hundreds rallied outside to show their support and express opposition to the Enbridge pipeline. Inside the packed courtroom, lawyers presented compelling arguments and answered challenging questions as chanting and drumming could be heard from 8 floors down. Stay tuned for Day 2 of the hearing tomorrow October 2nd. Nak’azdli and Nadleh Whut’en Nations, WCEL’s clients, are getting things started at 9:30am!

Representatives from the Haisla, Haida, Kitasoo Xai’xais, Heiltsuk, Nadleh Whut’en, Nak’azdli, Gitga’at and Gitxaala Nations travelled hundreds of kilometers to attend proceedings in front of the Federal Court of Appeal from October 1st – October 8th. These eight First Nations are challenging the federal government’s approval of the Enbridge pipeline and oil tanker project on the grounds that the federal government violated First Nations rights.

Reporting on the Mount Polley spill: To err is human; to err and not ask why is a failure by government regulators

18 February, 2015

On January 30, the expert panel appointed to investigate the August 4 breach of the Mount Polley Mine tailings storage facility (TSF) released its report on the causes of the dam failure. The report, which blamed the dam’s failure on poor design, made headlines across BC.

However, the expert panel, and an investigation by two levels of government and our national police force, have largely failed to ask key questions about whether a stronger regulatory framework could have prevented this breach. 

 

Federal government balking at first small step to rebuild Environmental Assessment

18 December, 2012

Together with our allies, we are continuing to hold the federal government's feet to the fire to minimize the fall out from "budget" bill C-38 in relation to the new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012. The so-called consultation process for CEAA 2012's critical Project LIst continues - currently a document virtually copied and pasted from the previous Act - and we're asking the Minister to make good on the government's consultation and amendment promises

Nerd alert: Discussion of tedious yet vital regulatory procedure ahead.

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