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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.

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. 

31 October, 2014

After months of pressing the province and the federal government to charge Executive Flight Services for spilling 35,000 litres of jet fuel into Lemon Creek, killing fish and prompting an evacuation, Slocan Valley resident Marilyn Burgoon took the law into her own hands. She walked into a courthouse and filed an “information” – a court document alleging that Executive Flight Services and the Province of British Columbia should be charged for violating the Fisheries Act. The Lemon Creek spill, and the lack of action by our governments, raises questions about enforcement of the Fisheries Act

29 October, 2014

Even if you don’t agree that liability for climate damages is imminent (and for many it is a novel concept), we know beyond a reasonable doubt that human caused climate change is occurring and that greenhouse gas emissions are killing people and wildlife, destroying property, and devastating communities and ecosystems.  Must those very real costs – that are occurring already and will only continue to rise – be borne only by the victims? Or by some combination of the victims and taxpayers?  Or, instead, should companies that have profited directly from our fossil fuel economy pay their share? And what is a fair share?

27 October, 2014

Over the next 2 months five six cases funded by our Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund will be in courts in 3 cities, addressing disputes involving 5 different communities. We’ve written about most of these court challenges on these pages over the past year or so. West Coast supporters who are in Vancouver, Victoria or Nelson might consider sitting in on one or more of these court hearings to show your support and to learn a bit about environmental law.

20 October, 2014

Earlier this month, a large number of First Nations and organizations celebrated an important step forward when all of their cases challenging the federal approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines and tankers proposal were given the green light to proceed by the Federal Court of Appeal.

20 October, 2014

This past August, the Canadian government quietly proposed new Aquaculture Activities Regulations regulations that would drastically reduce federal oversight of the dumping of aquatic drugs, pesticides and waste into wild fish habitat by fish farms. We submitted our concerns with these regulations to the federal govnerment, calling on it to strenghten, not weaken, its regulation of activities that threaten wild fish. We also set up a letter-writing tool to help you tell the government you demand strong laws for fish.

9 October, 2014

I’m pleased to announce the release of a major new report – Payback Time? – What the internationalization of climate litigation could mean for Canadian oil and gas companies. While we, and others, have written about climate damages litigation in Canada, Payback Time emphasizes that what happens in Canada is only part of the picture. Climate change is international, and there is good reason to believe that someone who suffers climate damages in, say, Bangladesh, could bring a lawsuit against Canadian, U.S. and European companies in the Bangladeshi courts. The real risk to Canadian companies may not be under Canadian law, but from lawsuits originating outside Canada. 

23 September, 2014

Last week Nobel Peace Prize winner, and one of the spiritual leaders of our time, Archbishop Desmond Tutu called on governments to make fossil fuel companies pay for the climate damages that their product is causing. Although international negotiations are beginning to look at this issue, the possibility of compensation has not been much discussed by the public. Taxpayers have by in large accepted the need for government to pay compensation to the victims of extreme weather events or flooding without recognizing the need to have major greenhouse gas polluters pay their share. But when an individual of the stature of Archbishop Tutu begins including climate compensation as a key part of the solution to climate change, we have to wonder, is this changing?

19 September, 2014

WCEL is honoured to have partnered with Lummi Nation and Tsleil-Waututh Nation to help deliver a 21 foot western red cedar totem pole carved by master carver Jewell James and the Lummi House of Tears Carvers to the Beaver Lake Cree Nation in recognition of, and solidarity with their fight. I was privileged to be a part of this incredible journey which traveled 10,000 kms through South Dakota, Montana, Washington, BC and Alberta.

Today, Lummi House of Tears Carver’s healing totem poles stand proudly in the territory of two Nations, each with a lawsuit against the Canadian government and against tarsands development.  Those poles connect indigenous resistance at both ends of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline. The resistance and courage of either or both nations have the potential to stop reckless tar sands development.

18 September, 2014

We believe that BC’s incorporated societies – community development organizations, church groups, secular groups, community organizations, hunting groups, and, yes, environmental organizations such as West Coast Environmental Law Association – collectively make for a stronger British Columbia. That is why we’re outraged by a BC Government proposal that could be used by anyone who has a bone to pick with a society to drag it before the courts.