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environmental assessment

Site C dam: The best option for new energy BC doesn’t need

20 May, 2014

The environmental assessment panel's reviewing BC Hydro’s proposed Site C dam on the Peace River was clear: Site C would have significant environmental and social consequences that would be unfairly borne by locals, those costs could only be justified by an unambiguous need for its power, and BC Hydro has failed to prove that we need that energy, at least not on the timelines it proposed.

Photo credit Graham Osborne

On May 7th, the Joint Review Panel considering BC Hydro’s proposed Site C dam on the Peace River issued its final report.

Federal government paves way for deregulating fish farming and other pollution

Friday, April 25, 2014

Regulations allow ministers to blanket-authorize pollution in fish-bearing waters despite widespread opposition, say environmental lawyers

VANCOUVER – This week, the federal government passed regulations allowing the Fisheries and Environment Ministers to give blanket-authorization to pollute in fish-bearing waters in a wide range of circumstances, including for aquaculture purposes.

BC axes requirement for environmental assessment of ski resorts and natural gas facilities

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Environmental lawyers say removal of an important oversight leaves environment and communities at risk

VANCOUVER – The BC government has quietly passed two Orders in Council removing the requirements for environmental assessments of sweet natural gas processing plants and ski and all-season resorts. The Orders, which were deposited yesterday, were made without public consultation and despite widespread concern about the social and environmental effects of both industries.

Taseko Mines, what part of “No” don’t you understand?

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?”

Last month, the federal government rejected Taseko Mines’proposal to build the controversial New Prosperity Project.  For a second time.  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

Widening (even further) the hole in federal fish protection: Canada’s proposed Fisheries Act Regulations

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.

Click here to send a letter to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Dear President Obama: In Canada climate change affects none of our decisions

21 February, 2014

When U.S. President Obama met with Prime Minister Harper earlier this week, he highlighted the importance of considering climate change in key energy decisions, like the Keystone XL, but was polite enough not to highlight that Canadian energy decisions do their best to ignore climate change.  The reality is that building fossil fuel infrastructure, and dramatically expanding the oil sands, cannot be divorced from the consequences of those actions.  Canadians would all benefit from a decision-making framework that transparently and realistically assessed the costs of the fossil fuel future that we are building.  Right now our government seems to be tallying up the benefits side of the equation, but ignoring the costs side. 

When U.S.

Strict timelines for environmental assessments, but not for government

14 February, 2014

It feels a bit like déjà vu. Once again we’re faced with a federal government study that was highly relevant to the environmental assessment of the Enbridge pipelines and tankers project, but which was not considered in the assessment because it was released too late.  Like an earlier Environment Canada report, this Transport Canada report is highly relevant to the issues that were before the Enbridge JRP.  In fact, the Transport Canada report directly considers the marine risks posed by Enbridge’s pipelines and tankers proposal, concluding for example that Enbridge’s project would raise the Environmental Risk Index rating for the nearshore zones in the vicinity from “very low” to “very high.”  In circumstances where there are significant risks, uncertainties or other complicating factors, hard and fast cookie-cutter timelines for environmental assessments can do the Canadian public a disservice.  This is well-demonstrated by the federal government’s apparent inability to meet its own deadlines in the Enbridge JRP scenario with regard to the Transport Canada and Environment Canada reports. 

It feels a bit like déjà vu. 

Once again we’re faced with a federal government study that was highly relevant to the environmental assessment of the Enbridge pipelines and tankers project, but which was not considered in the assessment because it was released too late.

B.C. residents remain strongly opposed to Enbridge’s oil tanker and pipeline proposal

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Victoria, B.C. – According to a recent poll by Justason Market Intelligence, nearly two-thirds of British Columbians (64 per cent) oppose Enbridge’s proposal to transport crude oil through B.C.'s northern inside coastal waters.

Fifty per cent strongly oppose the proposal as compared to only 12 per cent who strongly support.

Why the NEB downplayed the impact of a major bitumen spill

29 January, 2014

So how did the National Energy Board’s Joint Review Panel (JRP) considering Enbridge’s proposed pipelines and tankers project conclude that a catastrophic spill of diluted bitumen (untreated oil sands oil, diluted so that it can be transported by pipe) on BC’s North Coast would only have a short-term impact on the environment? We suggest that the Enbridge JRP report is illustrative of two concerns that we’ve raised about changes to Canada’s environmental assessment laws:

  • Having environmental assessments done by the National Energy Board (NEB) undermines the potential for an unbiased and independent assessment;
  • Putting in place rigid timelines discourages assessing risks up front (which is the purpose of environmental assessment) and may result in environmental assessments being done on the basis of incomplete scientific information. 

In our view the process has been anything but the “science-based” process that Prime Minister Harper promised Canadians. The reality is that social licence can’t be rushed, and weak environmental laws hurt, rather than help, industry. As First Nations and others line up to challenge the Enbridge Pipeline in court, and as Enbridge continues to find itself unable to secure customers, that reality is increasingly clear.  

What to make of the conclusion, courtesy of the National Energy Board’s Joint Review Panel (JRP) considering Enbridge’s proposed pipelines and tankers project, that a catastrophic spill of diluted bitumen (untreated oil sands oil, diluted so that it can be transported by pipe) on BC’s North Coast would only have a short-term impact on the environment?  And, as if to emphasize the questions raised by that conclusion, less than a month after the report was released, Environment Canada released a report confirming that spills of diluted bitumen – which Enbridge&rsq

"Not In Your Breadbasket"

17 January, 2014

Finding consensus among British Columbians on the controversial Site C dam that BC Hydro is seeking to build on the Peace River is challenging.  But one thing that can’t be disputed is our need of food. Call it a universal truth: we need to eat. And so this week I went to Fort St. John to help residents, farmers and citizen groups protect regional and provincial food security against plans by the BC Hydro to flood almost 16,000 acres of farmlands for the sake of industrial development and energy exports.

Peace River, BC. Photo courtesy of the Picture BC website www.picturebc.ca.
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