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environmental assessment

Reporting on the Mount Polley spill: To err is human; to err and not ask why is a failure by government regulators

18 February, 2015

On January 30, the expert panel appointed to investigate the August 4 breach of the Mount Polley Mine tailings storage facility (TSF) released its report on the causes of the dam failure. The report, which blamed the dam’s failure on poor design, made headlines across BC.

However, the expert panel, and an investigation by two levels of government and our national police force, have largely failed to ask key questions about whether a stronger regulatory framework could have prevented this breach. 

 

Social licence: mob rule or democracy in action?

21 January, 2015

The term “social licence to operate” is used frequently by project proponents and in the media, but has recently attracted some controversy. However, In a context where Canada’s environmental laws are being aggressively weakened in favour of big resource companies, and where many Canadians are feeling alienated and excluded from formal environmental decision-making, the concept is rapidly gaining in importance. 

The term “social licence to operate” (SLO) is used frequently by project proponents and in the media.  What does it mean and why is it important?  The phrase was originally coined by the mining industry about 15 years ago to describe the business case for company engagement with the local community and other stakeholders.  Today the term is routinely used by a variety of natural resource industries. 

Federal Court: Canada Acted Unconstitutionally in Ramming Through 2012 Environmental Law Changes

Monday, December 22, 2014

VANCOUVER, COAST SALISH TERRITORIES– The Federal Court of Canada has ruled that Canada failed to uphold its constitutional duties to the Mikisew Cree First Nation when it rammed through sweeping changes to federal environmental laws in 2012. West Coast Environmental Law congratulates the Mikisew Cree on their successful legal challenge to the federal government’s 2012 changes to environmental protection and assessment laws.

West Coast and NWI Launch North Coast Community Dialogue Session Series on LNG and Cumulative Impacts Management

18 December, 2014

On December 11, West Coast Environmental Law, along with the Northwest Institute for Bioregional Research (NWI), co-hosted the first of a series of community dialogue sessions on LNG and cumulative impacts management.  We held the opening session in Prince Rupert last week and were moved by the depth of knowledge, thoughtfulness and concern that participants brought to the session.  The objective of the event was to bring together First Nations, concerned citizens, business owners, health workers, local governments and non-profit organizations to begin to talk about the overall picture of LNG development in the region. 

On December 11, West Coast Environmental Law, along with the Northwest Institute for Bioregional Research (NWI), co-hosted the first of a series of community dialogue sessions on LNG and cumulative impacts management.  We held the opening session in Prince Rupert last week and were moved by the depth of knowledge, thoughtfulness and concern that participants brought to the session.  The objective of the event was to br

Canada's Enbridge decision: An annotated guide

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. 

If you've read the federal government's June 17 press release about Enbridge's pipelines and tankers proposal (AKA Northern Gateway), you might be wondering what it all means.  Here's our quick take on it.  The presentation below takes about 7 minutes and you can start by pressing the play button in the bottom left corner of the frame.

Investors ask: Is the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline becoming the new Keystone?

21 May, 2014

Investors are asking whether Kinder Morgan's Transmountain Pipeline could become the next Keystone, after Kinder Morgan’s statements about oil spills being good for the economy went viral. Increasingly it is becoming clear that this project is not inevitable, and the National Energy Board's review process is becoming mired with constant and unrelenting criticism, which makes the project’s swift approval far from certain as the numerous legal and financial risks it faces come into sharp focus.

That was the question posed by the investor website seekingalpha.com following Kinder Morgan’s “PR Nightmare” which made international news after Kinder Morgan’s statements about oil spills being good for the economy went viral.

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

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