1 Environmental Law Alert Blog | West Coast Environmental Law

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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.

3 May, 2017

Last month, several major natural features were recognized – by governments and courts – as legal persons. First, the New Zealand government enacted a new law declaring the Whanganui River a legal person. A couple of days later, the Uttarakhand High Court, in India, granted personhood to the Ganges and Yamuna rivers. And shortly thereafter the same Indian Court made a further order granting personhood to all of the rivers, glaciers, forests and other natural features of the Himalayas.  

We’ve written about the possibility of lawsuits by climate impacted communities against fossil fuel companies for their contribution to climate change, but this raises the fascinating possibility that India’s glaciers – or the Whanganui River or other natural features – could be the plaintiff in a climate lawsuit.

22 April, 2017

In honour of Earth Day, Staff Counsel Linda Nowlan looks at how the green movement can – and must – do more to keep the planet alive and thriving, as proposed by Peter Dauvergne in his book, Environmentalism of the Rich.


18 April, 2017

On April 5th, the federal government released the report of its Expert Panel that has been reviewing Canada’s environmental assessment (EA) processes. The report, Building Common Ground: A new vision for impact assessment in Canada, sets out a bold new vision of how the government should weigh options and make decisions about proposals that could affect the health of the environment and Canadians. Staff Counsel Anna Johnston shares an overview of some of the report's highlights, and how well they align with our priorities for a next-generation environmental assessment law.

12 April, 2017

In an earlier post we compared the BC Liberal and BC NDP Climate plans in advance of the upcoming election. Now that the BC Green Party has released its climate plan, Staff Counsel Andrew Gage provides an update to our scorecard evaluating the platforms of all three parties.

11 April, 2017

The Liberal Party of Canada was elected in part on the basis of a promise to restore lost environmental protections – including reviewing the “elimination of the Navigable Waters Protection Act” in order to “restore lost protections and incorporate more modern safeguards.”  On March 23rd the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transportation reported on the results of its review, and made a series of recommendations related to Canada’s laws related to navigable waters. But does the Committee's report chart a path for delivering on the government’s election promises and restoring lost legal protections for the public right of navigation?

10 April, 2017

West Coast Environmental Law was happy to accept an invitation to attend a celebration in Gaaw (Old Massett) on March 25, co-hosted by Haida Gwaii CoAST and the Council of the Haida Nation, to mark the defeat of the Enbridge Northern Gateway project. Staff Counsel Gavin Smith and Eugene Kung recount their experience at this inspiring event, reminding us why it's so important to celebrate the strength of our communities in confronting environmental challenges.

7 April, 2017

On April 1st, the Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund team had an opportunity to visit some of our grantees in Secwepemc territory/Kamloops and participate in a declaration of solidarity and support for the Secwepemc decision to reject the proposed Ajax mine. The ceremony brought together Indigenous communities, Kamloops residents and allies in the long-term fight against this project and the unacceptable risks it would present to culture, environment and health.

5 April, 2017

Revelations about the amount of corporate money coming to the BC Liberals have many people asking: what are these companies getting in return? It’s a good question. After all, corporations are not supposed to spend their shareholders’ money without a reasonable expectation of a return. In addition to questions about BC Liberal donors receiving government contracts or particular favourable government decisions, it's important to recognize that large corporate donations may be aimed at achieving a more sympathetic regulatory environment - one in which a failure to comply with BC's environmental laws may not result in major consequences. Teck Resources Ltd. is one of the BC Liberals' largest donors, and some of its companies have been in chronic non-compliance with the province's laws, making it arguably a beneficiary of a pattern of declining environmental enfrocement in BC. Moreover, a failure to follow BC's environmental laws has not prevented Teck Coal Ltd. from receiving an unprecedented permit approval from Cabinet to expand those same operations. Large corporate donations raises fundamental questions about whether our politicians will regulate the hand that feeds their re-election campaigns. 

31 March, 2017

It is not every day that we have an opportunity to effect transformative legal change. It is natural, then, that when last summer a number of cabinet ministers announced the review of four key federal environmental laws, West Coast Environmental Law – along with other lawyers, academics, environmental groups, Indigenous peoples and the general public – took a keen interest. Through these reviews we have an opportunity to not only strengthen environmental processes and substantive legal protections, but to also transform the governance of environmental planning and decision-making.

This opportunity is perhaps most pronounced in the reviews of federal environmental assessment processes and the National Energy Board (NEB). Currently, two out of the three federal bodies who are responsible authorities for environmental assessments under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 – the NEB and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) – are regulators.

28 March, 2017

“Canadian governments can and must do much more to protect Canadian ecosystems and biodiversity,” says the latest report from the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development – a must-read for anyone concerned about biodiversity protection in Canada. Staff Counsel Linda Nowlan breaks down the Committee’s recommendations, and how they could help ramp up marine protection on the Pacific coast.