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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.

11 April, 2014

We’ve just learned that Kinder Morgan has received an illegal park use permit from the BC government to allow it to research pipeline routes through 5 of BC’s parks and protected areas. And rather than recognizing that parks should be off-limits to pipelines, the BC government has rushed through an amendment to the Park Act to authorize this type of permit in the future.

10 April, 2014

Following hot on the heels of the controversial Park Amendment Act (Bill 4), the BC government has introduced another bill that would open up some of the province’s most publicly valuable lands – in this case, its farmlands – to industrial development. Bill 24, the Agricultural Land Commission Amendment Act, weakens legal protection on some of the best of BC's scarce agricultural lands. If passed, Bill 24 would allow decision makers to prioritize short-term gains over the long-term goal of protecting farmland and food security for most of the province’s ALR lands.

Read on to learn more, or you can use our handy on-line letter to tell the BC government: hands off our food security

4 April, 2014

It’s generally bad news for the environment & democracy when the government rewrites laws at the request of an industry.  But when it comes to provincial parks, the BC government has gone one step further, and actually has an official policy setting out how industry should go about proposing legislative amendments. The “Park Boundary Adjustment Policy” (the Policy) invites industry to propose “adjustments” to the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act – which creates and is intended to protect BC’s parks. The Policy itself requires industry to conduct “research” activities related to their proposal to “adjust” park boundaries, which is why the Park Amendment Act, 2014 (Bill 4), explicitly gives legal sanction to research for the purpose of removing land from parks.  As much as the government would like to pretend that Bill 4 and the idea of removing land from parks are two separate issues, they are inseparable. 

31 March, 2014

Last month, the federal government rejected Taseko Mines’ proposal to build the controversial New Prosperity Project. Again. But Taseko is going to court arguing that the environmental assessment process that resulted in a “No” for the second time was based on an error, and that it should have yet another opportunity – through a process again largely paid for by the taxpayer – to explain why its mine is a good idea.  Saying “yes” to development when it is environmentally and socially appropriate, does not mean that we can't have strong environmental laws that clearly set out the ground-rules for development, so that industry has certainty about when they will receive a no. Taseko has had two extremely thorough and expensive review panels from the federal government, and has been rejected twice by Cabinet, so it seems fair to ask Taseko mines, “What part of 'No' don’t you understand?”

31 March, 2014

The BC government has proposed changes to the Agricultural Land Commission Act that put our food security seriously at risk. If passed, these changes would significantly weaken agricultural land protection for the majority of BC's farmlands.

Tell the BC government that BC's farmlands need more, not less, legal protection. Send a letter urging decision-makers to not bring into effect these dangerous changes to our laws protecting agricultural lands!

19 March, 2014

British Columbians are no strangers to environmental deregulation. The early aughts, which for decades prior were heralded as likely to usher in electric cars and other signs of eco-enlightenment, instead saw a thorough dismantling of the province’s environmental regime, with the BC government repealing or weakening a range of environmental laws, regulations and programs.

14 March, 2014

Since 2012, the Canadian government has systematically gutted its laws protecting fish. First, it amended the federal Fisheries Act, dramatically weakening protection of fish and fish habitat. Then, it lifted the moratorium on fish farms in BC, opening the door to a massive expansion of aquaculture. Now, it wants to pass regulations that would allow the Environment and Fisheries Ministers to permit fish farms and industry to pollute our waters, harming fish with impunity. We have provided a letter that you can customize and send.

14 March, 2014

The BC Government introduced its long-promised Water Sustainability Act in the BC Legislature on Tuesday.  As we said when the government started its last round of public consultation on the proposed Act:

Water, and how we treat our water, is one of those fundamental issues that touches on so much of who we are, what we do, and how we build our economy.  A weak Water Sustainability Act could fail to deal with current unsustainable and inefficient water use, and could lock in these problems for years to come.  A strong Act could address past over-use, and wasteful use, of water and protect drinking water and fish from over-use, poor oil and gas, logging or mining practices, and other threats.

14 March, 2014

Some of our readers may have missed Twitter Moot 2014, held on Friday, February 28th, in Victoria, Edmonton, Thunder Bay, Toronto and Halifax – as well as globally on Twitter.  If you missed it and are kicking yourself, you can re-live all the action on our Twitter Moot feed.  

For those not familiar with Twitter Moot  – it is an on-line ”moot court“ case argued by law students from different law schools across Canada, all in 140 character “tweets”.  The Twitter Moot 2014 case was based on a real-life court case (Ross River Dena Council v. Yukon) to a fictional Supreme Twitter Court of Canada.  Congratulations and thanks to the 3 judges and 5 student teams, and especially to Erin Gray and Mae Price of UVic who won (they were both the judge’s choice and the people’s choice – the first time that has happened in any of our 3 Twitter Moots).   You can get a quick sense of the Moot from this article in Canadian Lawyer Magazine.

10 March, 2014

With the BC Legislature’s Spring Session in full swing, there are lots of new, proposed laws to read and comment on, and we’ve been drawing your attention to legislation that we view as problematic (related to Parks and ownership of lakes, for example), but not all of the news is bad.  We’re happy to see the BC government moving to regulate Off Road Vehicles (ORV) with a new Off Road Vehicle Act (Bill 13) – an initiative that we’ve been supporting for well over a decade and which is long overdue.