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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.

16 March, 2015

An RCMP memo blasting Canadian environmentalists, including West Coast, as part of a harmful “anti-Canadian petroleum movement,” does not make Canadians safer. The blatant bias of the memo undermines “the principle of legitimacy” – the idea that fair, credible law enforcement agencies can increase compliance with the law.  

4 March, 2015

In this era of heightened concerns about national security, we invite you to read the following open letter to Prime Minister Harper that makes a simple point: Our global atmosphere is “critical infrastructure” and disruption of it “undermines the security of Canada.” If you agree, join us in calling on the Prime Minister to declare the global atmosphere to be critical infrastructure, necessary for Canada’s security.

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. 

18 February, 2015

The pile of lawsuits sitting on top of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines and Tankers Project keeps getting bigger, and this time the Province of British Columbia has been dragged into the mix.

In January 2015 a new legal challenge was launched by Gitga’at First Nation and Coastal First Nations, arguing that the Province of BC has a legal duty to make its own decision about the Enbridge project, and to consult impacted First Nations before doing so.

This legal challenge adds to the ever-growing array of obstacles that have stopped Enbridge’s Northern Gateway from making any significant progress despite obtaining conditional federal approval last summer.

17 February, 2015

It has been said that the measure of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable members.  So when I recently testified the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health about Canada’s Pest Control Products Act (PCPA), I chose to focus my submissions on what we’ve learned from our past work with farm workers about how the PCPA does and does not protect farm workers.  I told the Committee that if the PCPA were appropriately implemented, it would go a long way to protecting farm workers, and the environment.  However, to date, it has not lived up to this potential – with the result that farm workers – as those most exposed to pesticides – continue to be subject to significant health risks.

13 February, 2015

“The right to speak is more precious than gold”. Members of the Wilderness Committee displayed these words proudly on the steps of the Supreme Court of BC as they prepared for a two-week hearing on a defamation claim by Taseko Mines Ltd. It only took one week working as a law student with West Coast Environmental Law to become attuned to one of the most significant issues related to the environmental law field in British Columbia, and to society at large: the conflict between large corporations engaged in resource extraction, and the voice of communities who are affected by or concerned about resource extraction activities.

11 February, 2015

Last Thursday (February 5th) the BC government unveiled its new pricing framework for water use in BC. The new pricing for BC water was undertaken after extensive public consultations, in which, the government reports, “a consistent message from British Columbians was that water is undervalued,” but the pricing regime for BC water still clocks in as among the lowest in the country. We take a look at what some businesses might expect to pay going forward. 

21 January, 2015

The term “social licence to operate” is used frequently by project proponents and in the media, but has recently attracted some controversy. However, In a context where Canada’s environmental laws are being aggressively weakened in favour of big resource companies, and where many Canadians are feeling alienated and excluded from formal environmental decision-making, the concept is rapidly gaining in importance. 

21 January, 2015

West Coast is excited to unveil our new and improved Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund (EDRF). A recent review of the EDRF’s last 5 years, which included interviews with EDRF clients, allies, lawyers, and much internal reflection, convinced us that we can be more effective and efficient by strategically funding cases we think we can win legally, but which also help build a community that cares about environmental protection.

21 January, 2015

I was honoured to attend the Tsleil-Waututh Nation’s (TWN) launch and celebration of its new solar tracker. With the installation of TWN’s solar tracker, TWN signaled that the green energy future is now. Far more than just opposing a pipeline that threatens their culture and spirituality while facilitating the expansion of the tar sands leading to runaway climate change, TWN is demonstrating leadership by investing in alternatives and looking to the future.