Environmental Law Alert
The environment’s legal watchdog
For over 40 years, West Coast has played a watchdog role – notifying the public when new laws could threaten the environment or current environmental laws are not being enforced. We provide public legal analysis and commentary, and make submissions to government, about how the environment could be better protected. Our Environmental Law Alert blog gets high-quality legal analysis to tens of thousands of British Columbians each year.
Our involvement in the development of regulations for BC’s new Water Sustainability Act illustrates the importance of a legal watchdog. We influenced the new rules by producing “Statements of Expectations” for two key aspects of the regulations (groundwater protection and environmental flows), which were signed onto by about 30 environmental groups.
Then, when the regulations were released by the provincial government, we sounded the alarm on a provision that would have prevented Ministry of Environment staff from considering the environmental impacts of granting water licences to existing groundwater users. As a result, the government amended the regulation, rectifying at least part of the problem.
Our Environmental Law Alert has demonstrated that sometimes shining a light on the complicated workings of environmental law – and showing that the government can do better – can result in stronger environmental protection.
- July 2015: West Coast released “Statements of Expectations” – outlining what strong Water Sustainability Regulations would look like. The Statements were signed onto by 30 organizations, and influenced the government’s development of the regulations.
- September 2015: West Coast updated its analysis on declines in environmental enforcement in BC. This data is used by First Nations organizations interested in improving environmental enforcement within their traditional territories, and may have played a role in the BC government’s decision to roll out new enforcement powers.
- March 2016: The BC government amended the new Water Sustainability Regulations after West Coast pointed out that a drafting error would restrict the power of government to consider environmental risks associated with existing groundwater users
Our Access to Justice work is funded by the West Coast Environmental Law Association and the Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund Society