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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.

2 July, 2014

The costs of climate change are being hotly debated. Prime Minister Harper has suggested that strong policies that address climate change will hurt jobs and the economy. But a growing body of evidence shows that addressing climate change not only saves Canadians from real financial loss, but also creates jobs and economic opportunities. Climate action works for both this generation and for future generations. But it needs to start now.

27 June, 2014

On June 26, 2014 the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) decision in Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia marked a watershed moment in the long journey of First Nations peoples to achieve recognition of their inherent title and authority over their ancestral territories. With the first court declaration of Aboriginal title in Canadian history, the SCC clarified the Canadian legal tests about Aboriginal title, and acknowledged the title and authority of the Tsilhqot’in people to use, manage and economically benefit from a 1,750 square kilometre portion of their territories southwest of Williams Lake, BC.

Almost as soon as the decision was out, our office began to get questions about the implications of the Tsilhqot’in decision for controversial tar sands infrastructure proposals like the Enbridge Northern Gateway tankers and pipelines project. Here are some of the key reasons why yesterday’s SCC decision increases legal risk for the Enbridge project.

25 June, 2014

The 10 day Water Festival hosted by The Lummi Nation of Washington State wrapped up on June 22nd. I had the opportunity to attend part of the festival, along with another law student volunteer and WCEL Staff Lawyer, Eugene Kung. The part we were present for was the Stommish Sacred Summit, which consisted of a day of presentations on the topic of Sacred Obligations, a talk by Winona LaDuke, and a rally against a proposed coal port in the Salish Sea. These events hold great relevance for the environmental movement and the fight against fossil fuel projects in Canada.

19 June, 2014

If you've read the federal government's June 17 press release about Enbridge's Northern Gateway proposal, you might be wondering what it all means.  Here's our quick (multi-media) take on it. 

18 June, 2014

On the morning of June 10, 2014, as my first investigative assignment as a law student volunteer working with West Coast Environmental Law, I was sent to the Federal Court of Appeal on the corner of the busy Georgia and Granville streets to observe an appeal brought by the Hupacasath First Nation (HFN), a small Vancouver Island First Nation community.  Never before having been in the Federal Courts, I was excited to enter the lofty, glass office building that quite contrasts with the much lower, brick structures of the neighbouring Provincial courts.  Not knowing exactly where to go, I followed a group of people dressed in suits as they entered Pacific Centre, assuming they would know where they were going.  They did.  As the first observer to arrive, I settled myself into the centre row with my laptop out, eager to capture the experience in writing.

17 June, 2014

Several of the most contentious changes to environmental laws passed during the 2014 spring session of the BC Legislature seem to have been developed, and pushed through, in a mad rush and without adequate public consultation. The goal of these laws seems, at least in part, to be to remove perceived environmental constraints on certain types of development – notably natural gas exploration, development and export. Such laws erode environmental legal safeguards, and in turn reduce public confidence in BC’s environmental safety net. This will ultimately hurt the government’s desire to push through quick LNG development. 

13 June, 2014

Should BC be used to trans-ship American coal to China? Who gets to decide? And what does that mean for our environment? These issues and others will be considered in a legal challenge brought by Voters Taking Action on Climate Change (VTACC), with support from our Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund, to a government decision approving the ten- to twenty-fold dramatic expansion of coal shipping from Texada Island.  Most of this coal will come from Wyoming and Montana, shipped through the controversial proposed Fraser Surrey Docks Coal Port, and could, in the long term, increase to as much as 8 million metric tonnes per year.  What happens on Texada will have an impact throughout the region – and globally.

22 May, 2014

The Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic – a direct result of climate change – has cost British Columbia billions in lost timber value alone - a reality that has influenced the public consciousness of British Columbians about the cost of climate change. Public awareness that climate change is costing us here and now may finally drive real climate action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and raise questions about whether Greenhouse Gas polluters - like Chevron - should pay for the damages that they cause. But for that to happen journalism needs to be responsible in how it covers the growing scientific certainty about the links between climate change and present-day, real-world climate impacts.

21 May, 2014

Thank you to everyone who spoke up to oppose Bill 24 – the proposed Agricultural Land Commission Amendment Act, 2014.  Your voices played an important role in slowing the progress of this bill and in convincing the government that changes to the Bill were necessary. So we have momentum.  But unfortunately the  government’s changes do not change the fact that the bill undermines legal protection for farmland. We continue to press the government to shelve Bill 24 and to undertake some real consultation on how agricultural land should be managed in BC.

21 May, 2014

Every two years the Salish Sea Conference brings together scientists, First Nations and tribal government representatives, resource managers, community/business leaders, policy makers, educators and students, and even the occasional environmental lawyer, to share the latest research on protecting and restoring the Salish Sea ecosystem. This year I was privileged to be one of well over 1,000 attendees at this exciting conference, held in Seattle from April 30 to May 2. It was organized by the Fraser Basin Council, Western Washington University and the Puget Sound Partnership.