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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 February, 2013

In its Throne Speech (on Monday, February 12th, 2013), the BC government unveiled its promise for a Prosperity Fund – a fund that promises to channel revenues from natural gas exports to a designated fund to benefit future British Columbians.  It’s an idea that the environmental community, including West Coast, has proposed several times over the years, but the throne speech, unfortunately, seems to take a narrow view of “prosperity” – with no recognition that the key to future prosperity is going to involve moving us away from dependence on non-renewable and greenhouse gas producing fossil fuels and adapting to climate change.  And why should the revenues for this fund only come from natural gas, which the province likes to argue is the cleanest of the non-renewable fuels, while letting coal and oil off the hook?

24 January, 2013

Kinder Morgan’s proposal to expand its oil pipeline from Alberta’s Tarsands to Burnaby will dramatically increase the number of oil tankers passing through the Salish Sea, and increase the likelihood of a spill.  But if and when there is a spill, the insurance funds available - $1.34 Billion – will be far short of the estimated $10.8 Billion costs of clean up and financial impacts.  That’s the conclusion of Financial Liability for Kinder Morgan, a report that we released today with our friends at Living Oceans, Georgia Strait Alliance and the Wilderness Committee. 

23 January, 2013

The Canadian government likes to excuse its slow action on climate change by suggesting that Canada needs to wait for other countries to act.  However, when elected representatives from around the world gathered in London last week to discuss how laws can help fight climate change, they emphasized that the vast majority of countries are already taking action on climate change – and singled out Canada as an environmental laggard.

16 January, 2013

Idle No More raises questions about both the past and future of Canada itself. It goes to the reality that we are a nation with a colonial history, and that we have not yet come to grips with that history. And it raises the possibility of a future in which First Nations retake their rightful place in decision-making about their territories, and in which we collectively build a more sustainable future for our children.

14 January, 2013

In November 2012, 170 resource management practitioners, scientists, academics, and community members came together at a conference in Smithers, BC  entitled “Adding it All Up: Balancing Benefits and Effects of Resource Development”. The conference, organized by the Bulkley Valley Research Centre, focused on the issue of cumulative impacts management in the northwest region of BC. Gerald Amos from the Headwaters Initiative and a member of the Haisla Nation captures the challenges and opportunities facing the region in his remarks at the conference, excerpts of which we reprint as a guest post. 

11 January, 2013

Kudos to Greenpeace Canada for finding something of a smoking gun exposing  the role of the oil and gas industry in the gutting of Canada’s environmental laws.  Greenpeace has released a letter from the Energy Framework Initiative (EFI), representing every major oil and gas industry association, asking that the government undertake a major overhaul of six critical environmental statutes that inconvenienced the industry.  Five of the statutes have since been replaced or seen major amendments through the dismantling of our country’s environmental safety net s in omnibus bills C-38 and C-45, and further amendments are expected in the near future.  As we’ve said before, passing laws to placate one industry is going to mean bad laws that don’t protect Canadians.  In the short and long run chopping up Canada’s environmental safety net to placate industry harms our environment and the economy,and in the long run it undercuts the social licence of the industry. In the long run, everybody loses.

10 January, 2013

The decision of the Yukon Court of Appeal in Ross River Dena Council v. Government of the Yukon - delivered just days before the end of 2012 (on Dec 27th) – may force governments across Canada – including in BC – to rewrite their mining laws.  The decision essentially holds that the “free entry system” – a system of allocating mineral rights that is central to mining law in much of Canada, including BC – is inconsistent with the obligation of the Crown to consult First Nations on decisions that may impact their Aboriginal Title and Rights. 

3 January, 2013

Well, tomorrow (January 4th) the Enbridge Joint Review Panel arrives in Victoria.  It’s in Vancouver on January 14th, and in Kelowna on the 28th.  So this is a big month in the southern part of our province for those concerned about the Enbridge Pipeline and Tanker Project. As you may have heard, the general public will not be invited to attend these meetings to watch the presentations from concerned citizens, but we're now learning that even those who are registered to speak can't attend in person to watch their fellow presenters.  But, whether you’re registered to speak or not, there will be plenty going on.

18 December, 2012

In December 2010, representatives of sixty-one Indigenous nations came together in an historic alliance to protect the Fraser watershed and our coastal waters from the threat of oil spills.The result was the Save the Fraser Declaration, which bans tar sands projects, like the Enbridge pipeline and tankers project, from impacted First Nations’ territories as a matter of Indigenous law. The Declaration states:

We will not allow the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines, or similar Tar Sands projects, to cross our lands, territories and watersheds, or the ocean migration routes of Fraser River salmon.

18 December, 2012

Together with our allies, we are continuing to hold the federal government's feet to the fire to minimize the fall out from "budget" bill C-38 in relation to the new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012. The so-called consultation process for CEAA 2012's critical Project LIst continues - currently a document virtually copied and pasted from the previous Act - and we're asking the Minister to make good on the government's consultation and amendment promises