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Environmental Law Alert Blog

Through our Environmental Law Alert blog, West Coast alerts you to environmental law problems and developments affecting British Columbians. It is the public voice of our Environmental Law Alert unit which is a legal “watchdog” for BC’s environment.

If you have an environmental story that we should hear about, please e-mail Andrew Gage. Also, please feel free to comment on any of the posts to this blog – but please keep in mind our policies on comments.

18 December, 2014

On December 11, West Coast Environmental Law, along with the Northwest Institute for Bioregional Research (NWI), co-hosted the first of a series of community dialogue sessions on LNG and cumulative impacts management.  We held the opening session in Prince Rupert last week and were moved by the depth of knowledge, thoughtfulness and concern that participants brought to the session.  The objective of the event was to bring together First Nations, concerned citizens, business owners, health workers, local governments and non-profit organizations to begin to talk about the overall picture of LNG development in the region. 

9 December, 2014

It’s a bit over twenty years since I was arrested, along with 300 other people who stood on the Kennedy Lake Road on August 9th, 1993, in Clayoquot Sound.  So the recent protests on Burnaby Mountain, with over 120 people arrested for protesting Kinder Morgan’s pipeline exploration activities in a regional park, brought back memories.  Although Kinder Morgan decided not to proceed with contempt proceedings  against the Burnaby protesters (after admitting that it provided incorrect GPS co-ordinates when it initially sought the court order they were said to have violated) , I think the lessons I learned about how the courts view and deal with protests will be relevant if we see future civil disobedience against the Enbridge or Kinder Morgan pipelines.

8 December, 2014

December 17 update: Bill C-43 received Royal Assent on December 16, 2014. Senate considered the 460-page Bill for only three short days and the Senate Finance Committee completed its clause-by-clause review of all 401 clauses in just one day.

On October 23, 2014, the federal government introduced Bill C-43, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures (also called the “Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2”). Buried in Division 16 of the 475 page omnibus bill are proposed changes to the Canada Marine Act that, if adopted, would pose a serious threat to legal protection from environmental threats and public oversight of activities that occur in ports.

 

19 November, 2014

Four legal challenges to last month’s approvals of BC Hydro’s proposed Site C dam demonstrate the risks associated with the erosion of legal mechanisms for meaningful public participation, transparency and accountability in environmental assessments under British Columbian and Canadian federal law. The federal and provincial decisions to approve Site C, an $8 hydroelectric project in northeast BC that would flood thousands of hectares of some of BC’s most important agricultural lands and displace homesteaders, First Nations, rare species and wildlife, occurred despite a finding by their own expert review panel that BC Hydro had not proven its impacts are justified.

19 November, 2014

RISE, a recent competition organized by Simon Fraser University, asked entrants to come up with a visionary solution to make the greater Vancouver area more resilient to sea level rise. West Coast Environmental Law teamed up with DG Blair from the BC Stewardship Centre and Cathy LeBlanc, a senior planner at the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development to propose that an “old” idea—relying on natural shorelines to create a buffer zone for seaside properties—was an effective means to protect our communities from the impacts of rising seas if it was applied in a new way on a larger scale. We were awarded the prize for Best Environmental Idea. Congratulations to all the other winners, and all the competitors.

17 November, 2014

This year, West Coast Environmental Law is proud to celebrate our 40th anniversary and the many accomplishments the organization has achieved over the past four decades.

14 November, 2014

The winners of the 2014 Andrew Thompson award were announced at our 40th anniversary celebration last week. The award was established in 2002 by West Coast Environmental Law and the Thompson family, as a legacy to the late Dr. Andrew Thompson, one of BC’s foremost environmental lawyers.  The award is given periodically to individuals who have demonstrated a significant lifetime contribution to environmental protection and sustainability in British Columbia through the law.  The 2014 award recognized individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the fields of environmental and Aboriginal law, or to the revitalization, recognition and/or enforcement of Indigenous environmental law.

14 November, 2014

On the morning of October 27, I was excited not to have to go into the office, but not for the reasons one might think.  As an articled student for WCEL, I look forward to going to the office because everyone there is so inspirational and the work they do seems so worthwhile, I am thankful just to be a part of it all.  This day was not any different except I had a change of venue. This morning, I was attending a legal challenge brought by Voters Taking Action on Climate Change (VTACC) – with support from West Coast’s Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund (EDRF) – in the BC Supreme Court at Vancouver courthouse.  VTACC’s Lawyer, Tim Howard, was asking the court to overturn a Ministry of Mines (MEM) decision to amend a permit to allow for expansion of coal handing at a Lafarge Canada facility on Texada Island (TQL).  Howard was arguing that the Ministry of Environment, not the MEM, should have been the government agency making decisions about coal handling.

13 November, 2014

We’re gratified that Suncor – one of Canada’s largest oil sands companies – has taken the time to read – and publicly disagree with – our recent report, Payback Time, cleverly downplaygin Payback Time as just one of several efforts to single out someone as responsible for climate change. Suncor then argues that we are all to blame, suggesting that singling Suncor out for special blame is simply wishful thinking on the part of equally blame-worthy polluters (ie. the general public).  The reality is that Suncorp’s product and operations are already causing tens of billions of dollars in damages globally, and the company and their share-holders are benefiting financially.  The full cost of their product is not reflected in its cost. One cannot keep up that business model and not expect calls for compensation.

3 November, 2014

Since FIPPA was ratified we’ve received several inquiries asking what the ratification means for the environment. While the FIPPA provisions are certainly alarming, we do not think anything is to be gained by over-stating the problems associated with the FIPPA as they relate to the field of environmental law.   With a few notable exceptions (such as the 31 year cancellation period), FIPPA’s provisions are not completely different than terms that appear in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), or in other such agreements.  NAFTA and other agreements have resulted in some high profile and disturbing claims against the Canadian government – including related to environmental matters – but they have not entirely removed the ability of Canadian governments to pass environmental laws.  Nor will FIPPA.