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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.

18 December, 2013

On Thursday, December 5, 2013, members of the Yinka Dene Alliance, a group of six First Nations in northern BC who have banned the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines from their territories, held an anniversary celebration for the Save the Fraser Declaration in Vancouver. The anniversary consisted of the addition of a new First Nations signatory to the Declaration as well as the launch of the Save the Fraser Solidarity Accord, where a diverse range of Canadian organizations and individuals committed to stand with First Nations that have banned Enbridge’s Northern Gateway from their territories.  West Coast Environmental Law Association was honoured to be there to sign the Accord.

12 December, 2013

The BC government yesterday released the names of 18 businesses and 155 individuals who have not paid court fines for environmental offences committed between 2004 and 2012.  Collectively, these individuals owe $1.54 million that the courts ordered paid to the Province or the Habitat Conservation Trust. We celebrate the news that the names of environmental offenders that don’t pay for their crimes will be published is welcome, even though there continue to be other fundamental problems with environmental enforcement in BC.

5 December, 2013

If a disaster strikes in the forest, the question is not does it make a sound, but does the government have a legal duty to tell someone?  Commissioner Elizabeth Denham deserves credit for her recent report examining the obligation of government to release information that is related to risks to our environment’s health and public safety.  Her insight that BC government agencies have not been applying this section is important.  However, while we agree broadly with her recommendations, Commissioner Denham could have taken the opportunity to signal a departure from earlier decisions of her office on the scope of section 25 and to clarify how the section should be applied.  Unfortunately, some of the specifics of her approach seem overly narrow, and we hope that she will revisit them in future decisions. 

21 November, 2013

A new paper from noted climate scientist, Richard Heede lists 90 privately and publicly owned fossil fuel and cement companies, and a handful of nation states, that are collectively responsible for 2/3 of the total global emissions of greenhouse gases to date. We may all be in some sense responsible for global warming, but it’s pretty clear that some of us are more responsible than others.  It is a  step towards the important conversation about breaking our addiction to carbon-intensive fuels, and about the role of fossil fuel industry in cultivating that addiction, and paying for the damages that it has caused.

14 November, 2013

Hydraulic fracturing – which uses and pollutes a whole lot of water – should be a major discussion point within the public consultations on a new Water Sustainabilty Act (taking place until this Friday, November 15th).  BC’s Environment Minister, Mary Polak, has argued that the provincial government's promise of “Cleanest LNG” should be evaluated in terms of its impacts on water.  However, the Water Sustainability Act proposal presumes without discussion that water will be made available for this controversial oil and gas industrial process.   We are not fans of fracking, for a variety of reasons.  However, if BC wants to have its promise of “Cleanest LNG” judged in terms of its impacts on water resources, then the proposed Water Sustainability Act does not do enough.

14 November, 2013

Last month, Anna Johnston joined policy makers, government officials, lawyers, academics, and professionals from across the continent at a session held by the commission in Washington, D.C. The hot-button issue? How Canada’s weakening of its environmental laws is flouting its legal obligations under the environmental side agreement.  Time and time again, she heard concerns over Canada’s sliding environmental track record and lack of political will to uphold its obligations under the agreement. As one participant from south of the border asked, “What the hell is going on in your country?”

8 November, 2013

About one out of every four British Columbians relies on wells for drinking water.  Groundwater is also essential to BC’s agricultural sector and is critical for habitat for salmon and other fish species.  So it’s welcome news that BC is planning to finally regulate groundwater use under the proposed Water Sustainability Act (which the government is consulting British Columbians on until November 15th).  But we need to be sure that these new rules on groundwater use don’t lock in unsustainable water use, and allow us to get a handle on how groundwater should be licensed is BC. 

8 November, 2013

The current public consultation on a new BC Water Sustainability Act represents a perfect opportunity to ask: who should benefit from BC’s water?  Because right now the proposed Water Sustainability Act focuses on ensuring that private benefits from using water continue, locking in a private-interest focus that will make it difficult for British Columbia to protect stream health and to respond to a changing climate. Instead we need an act which moves us towards a truly sustainable water system, protecting stream health and placing that responsibility ahead of private interests.

7 November, 2013

Media headlines are trumpeting this week’s agreement between Premiers Christy Clark and Alison Redford regarding tar sands infrastructure in BC. In our opinion, however, this  agreement brings the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipeline proposals no closer to reality.

5 November, 2013

Imagine a lake, stream or river that you love.  Or perhaps rely upon for your drinking water or livelihood.  That’s what the current BC government consultations on a new Water Sustainability Act - which are going on until November 15th - are about: is the government doing enough to protect our lakes, streams and wetlands. Unfortunately, while there are some improvements in the proposed Water Sustainability Actover the current Water Act, stream health still has a low priority – at least in relation to existing water users.