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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.

26 May, 2016

One year to go until BC’s next election - what role will defending our natural environment play? A recent poll from Insights West contains good and bad news for environmentally-minded voters, but nonetheless reminds us that the environment can and should play a major role in the coming election. Share your ideas in keeping the environment front and centre in the lead up to the election.

24 May, 2016

It has been yet another whirlwind month on the Kinder Morgan file. Staff Counsel Eugene Kung takes us through six milestones from the month of May, ranging from a trip to "oil's heartland" in Texas to last week's unsurprising, yet disappointing NEB recommendation.

24 May, 2016

We have predicted that governments would begin enacting new laws to address the liability of fossil fuel companies for their role in causing climate change. And now we can see a first example of such legislation being debated in California through the proposed Climate Science Truth and Accountability Act.

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.

17 May, 2016

Last month, Staff Counsel Hannah Askew traveled with Anishinaabe scholars John Borrows and Heidi Stark to Walpole Island First Nation in Ontario to assist with, and learn from, a four day Anishinaabe law camp. Hannah recounts the lessons she learned from the camp as well as lessons taught to her by Anishinaabe elders. 

16 May, 2016

The Great Bear Sea is the ocean alongside the Great Bear Rainforest.  Our new infographic “Protecting BC’s Coast” shows that it's complicated, but possible to increase protection for this unique ecosystem. With this in mind, we were buoyed by the government’s commitment to ramp up Canada’s Marine Protected Area (MPA) network with an interim target of 5% of the ocean and coastal area by 2017, rising to protection of at least 10% by 2020.

16 May, 2016

Canadians love parks and wilderness. Banff, Nahanni, Algonquin, Gros Morne – these names are etched in our consciousness. Yet we’re less familiar with the grandeur and ecological wonders of Canada’s ocean world. It’s time to make a splash and make Canadians proud of this essential part of our natural heritage and life support system.

11 May, 2016

Poor enforcement of environmental laws doesn’t just hurt our environment, and communities that depend on that environment. It also hurts law-abiding businesses – businesses that find themselves having to compete against counterparts who flout the law. 

5 May, 2016

New documents reveal that the Canadian oil company Imperial Oil knew in the 1970s or earlier that burning fossil fuels caused climate change. Similar documents in the U.S. have put Imperial’s parent company, Exxon Mobil, on the defensive, with multiple government investigations launched against the multi-national oil and gas cartel. These latest revelations add to the controversy, as well as giving it a Canadian dimension. 

As told in the U.S., this story has been largely about fraud – and fair enough: Exxon has been an active player in spreading climate disinformation. But even more fundamental than the question of knowingly misleading shareholders or the public is the question of whether it’s OK (whether you mislead anyone or not) to sell a product (and to make billions doing so) that you know will harm communities and destroy property.  If Exxon has known since the 1970s that its product will (for example) contribute to flooding coastal communities and worsen droughts, shouldn’t it have been hard at work helping us find alternatives? Can they pocket their hundreds of billions of dollars of profits without paying their fair share in preparing for and dealing with climate change impacts? How would the world be different if fossil fuel companies had been paying their fair share since the 1970s?

26 April, 2016

Momentum is growing to get habitat protection reinstated into the federal Fisheries Act through a petition launched recently by a network of scientists, First Nations, and organizations including West Coast Environmental Law. Below is a guest post by authors from both coasts about the need to make this change to Canada’s law.