Banner _Pubs.jpg

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, 2015

Over the past year, West Coast supported First Nations battling Enbridge in court, helped Canadians prepare to vote for the environment, and took our plan for climate compensation to Paris for the United Nations Climate Conference. And that's just the beginning!

We invite you to visit our year in review and take a moment to reflect back on a year of successes and milestones with us.

14 December, 2015

An agreement has been reached in Paris, and myself and West Coast’s Community and Engagement Specialist, Anjali Appadurai, were present, and saw the back and forth of negotiations (or at least that part of it that occurred in public) first hand. It has been described by environmental organizations as anywhere from a “historic moment” (Climate Action Network Canada) to “a sham of a deal” (Friends of the Earth International).  Our own view is somewhere in between: the agreement could help us transition from a fossil fuel economy to a more sustainable future, but only if countries all around the world, and especially Canada, work really hard.

11 December, 2015

As a lawyer I’m supposed to be able to give a pundit’s opinion on just how well Canada is doing, and whether we are working towards a strong and fair international agreement.  But the reality is that it’s surprisingly difficult to tell, even here in Paris. That’s partly because I’m still learning, partly because key discussions about what countries are offering and giving up are occurring behind the scenes, but mostly because everything is intertwined and constantly in motion.

In general, Canada is doing well in some very important areas. However, it is difficult to give an unqualified endorsement.  The new government seems not to have grappled with some more challenging questions of fairness and Canada’s contribution to climate change. As such is aligning itself with unhelpful and aggressive positions – especially in its efforts to limit discussions about how to help the world’s most vulnerable communities.

11 December, 2015

The following is a guest post by John Bonine, a colleague and friend to West Coast Environmental Law. He wrote it as a personal observation to friends, and we reproduce it here with his permission. 

Nearly 5 years ago, the Ukrainian environmental lawyer and law professor, Svitlana Kravchenko, who would later become my wife, asked a question during a conference in Florida. Her question should confront all of us as a result of the release a few hours ago of the latest proposed text of the “Paris Agreement” on climate change.  

1 December, 2015

Water, water everywhere. At this wet time of year, it may not seem that protecting the amount of water flowing in streams and rivers throughout the province is a top priority. Yet when you think back to this summer’s severe drought, or read that we’re headed for another troubling year for sockeye, as spawning salmon returns are far lower than predicted, it becomes clear why West Coast Environmental Law and many allies recently wrote to the government of BC setting out our Expectations for Environmental Flows Regulations  under the BC Water Sustainability Act. Our number one point: the government needs to have an environmental flows regulation. 

20 November, 2015

In September, the Fort Nelson First Nation won a major legal challenge at the Environmental Appeal Board (EAB) that overturned a long term water license issued to gas giant Nexen Inc for hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”). The EAB decision is an important win – setting new precedents on how water managers should deal with scientific uncertainty and the government’s obligations to consult First Nations on water use.

20 November, 2015

When Canada elected Justin Trudeau on a platform of change and open and honest government, the season began for a storm of open letters to the government expressing the hopes and demands of the nation – and the government’s responses, in some cases. Staff Counsel Eugene Kung provides the story of some of these letters, including two that West Coast was a signatory of.

15 November, 2015

Since the recent federal election there has been much discussion about the Liberal party’s election promise to “review Canada’s environmental assessment (EA) processes and introduce new, fair processes” for reviewing projects. But what exactly does a good review process look like? 

15 November, 2015

While an international agreement may come out of the climate talks in Paris later this month, the playing field is tilted against a strong agreement. Staff Counsel Andrew Gage is going to Paris to be a part of the conversation about tilting the field towards climate justice instead. The key, he argues, is in fundamentally shifting the narrative of how we determine accountability, responsibility, and compensation, and about challenging the assumptions that underly the Paris negotiations. 

13 November, 2015

WCEL welcomes today's public release of mandate letters from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for newly appointed federal Cabinet Ministers. 

The release of the letters is a first for the federal government. WCEL pledges to work closely with all newly appointed Ministers to improve protection of Canada's environment.