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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.

19 November, 2014

RISE, a recent competition organized by Simon Fraser University, asked entrants to come up with a visionary solution to make the greater Vancouver area more resilient to sea level rise. West Coast Environmental Law teamed up with DG Blair from the BC Stewardship Centre and Cathy LeBlanc, a senior planner at the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development to propose that an “old” idea—relying on natural shorelines to create a buffer zone for seaside properties—was an effective means to protect our communities from the impacts of rising seas if it was applied in a new way on a larger scale. We were awarded the prize for Best Environmental Idea. Congratulations to all the other winners, and all the competitors.

17 November, 2014

This year, West Coast Environmental Law is proud to celebrate our 40th anniversary and the many accomplishments the organization has achieved over the past four decades.

14 November, 2014

The winners of the 2014 Andrew Thompson award were announced at our 40th anniversary celebration last week. The award was established in 2002 by West Coast Environmental Law and the Thompson family, as a legacy to the late Dr. Andrew Thompson, one of BC’s foremost environmental lawyers.  The award is given periodically to individuals who have demonstrated a significant lifetime contribution to environmental protection and sustainability in British Columbia through the law.  The 2014 award recognized individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the fields of environmental and Aboriginal law, or to the revitalization, recognition and/or enforcement of Indigenous environmental law.

14 November, 2014

On the morning of October 27, I was excited not to have to go into the office, but not for the reasons one might think.  As an articled student for WCEL, I look forward to going to the office because everyone there is so inspirational and the work they do seems so worthwhile, I am thankful just to be a part of it all.  This day was not any different except I had a change of venue. This morning, I was attending a legal challenge brought by Voters Taking Action on Climate Change (VTACC) – with support from West Coast’s Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund (EDRF) – in the BC Supreme Court at Vancouver courthouse.  VTACC’s Lawyer, Tim Howard, was asking the court to overturn a Ministry of Mines (MEM) decision to amend a permit to allow for expansion of coal handing at a Lafarge Canada facility on Texada Island (TQL).  Howard was arguing that the Ministry of Environment, not the MEM, should have been the government agency making decisions about coal handling.

13 November, 2014

We’re gratified that Suncor – one of Canada’s largest oil sands companies – has taken the time to read – and publicly disagree with – our recent report, Payback Time, cleverly downplaygin Payback Time as just one of several efforts to single out someone as responsible for climate change. Suncor then argues that we are all to blame, suggesting that singling Suncor out for special blame is simply wishful thinking on the part of equally blame-worthy polluters (ie. the general public).  The reality is that Suncorp’s product and operations are already causing tens of billions of dollars in damages globally, and the company and their share-holders are benefiting financially.  The full cost of their product is not reflected in its cost. One cannot keep up that business model and not expect calls for compensation.

3 November, 2014

Since FIPPA was ratified we’ve received several inquiries asking what the ratification means for the environment. While the FIPPA provisions are certainly alarming, we do not think anything is to be gained by over-stating the problems associated with the FIPPA as they relate to the field of environmental law.   With a few notable exceptions (such as the 31 year cancellation period), FIPPA’s provisions are not completely different than terms that appear in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), or in other such agreements.  NAFTA and other agreements have resulted in some high profile and disturbing claims against the Canadian government – including related to environmental matters – but they have not entirely removed the ability of Canadian governments to pass environmental laws.  Nor will FIPPA. 

31 October, 2014

After months of pressing the province and the federal government to charge Executive Flight Services for spilling 35,000 litres of jet fuel into Lemon Creek, killing fish and prompting an evacuation, Slocan Valley resident Marilyn Burgoon took the law into her own hands. She walked into a courthouse and filed an “information” – a court document alleging that Executive Flight Centre Services and the Province of British Columbia should be charged for violating the Fisheries Act. The Lemon Creek spill, and the lack of action by our governments, raises questions about enforcement of the Fisheries Act

29 October, 2014

Even if you don’t agree that liability for climate damages is imminent (and for many it is a novel concept), we know beyond a reasonable doubt that human caused climate change is occurring and that greenhouse gas emissions are killing people and wildlife, destroying property, and devastating communities and ecosystems.  Must those very real costs – that are occurring already and will only continue to rise – be borne only by the victims? Or by some combination of the victims and taxpayers?  Or, instead, should companies that have profited directly from our fossil fuel economy pay their share? And what is a fair share?

27 October, 2014

Over the next 2 months five six cases funded by our Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund will be in courts in 3 cities, addressing disputes involving 5 different communities. We’ve written about most of these court challenges on these pages over the past year or so. West Coast supporters who are in Vancouver, Victoria or Nelson might consider sitting in on one or more of these court hearings to show your support and to learn a bit about environmental law.

20 October, 2014

Earlier this month, a large number of First Nations and organizations celebrated an important step forward when all of their cases challenging the federal approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines and tankers proposal were given the green light to proceed by the Federal Court of Appeal.