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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.

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.

30 October, 2013

It was only two years ago that Premier Christie Clark promised that the province would ban cosmetic pesticide use– pesticide use on lawns and ornamental plants.  But much has happened in a year, and the province is instead currently consulting on regulations that will allow cosmetic pesticide use – as long as a commercial lawn care company or other licenced applicator actually applies the pesticides. Between now and December 8th (when the consultation closes) the BC government needs to hear (yet again) that British Columbians want and deserve a ban on this unnecessary pesticide use.

21 October, 2013

Local government elections should be about communities discussing their problems, and electing people who will address those problems.  Making a home-made lawn-sign or printing a few leaflets should be a basic right.  Unfortunately, major changes being considered for the Local Government Act would require not just big-moneyed advertisers, but just about anyone who wants to speak out during a local government election (beyond sharing their personal views with a few friends), to register. These proposals do not recognize the intimidation that technical requirements – and especially vague technical requirements – pose for local individuals and groups that may not have a lot of experience with dealing with government.  

18 October, 2013

As anyone who has worked in environmental or social justice knows, sometimes change takes a very, very long time, somewhat like a glacier carving out a valley. Little, incremental changes take place that you don’t notice at the time, but that add up to earth-shattering differences in the long run. Sometimes, though, you can point to milestones, markers in time that help you distinguish when things took a turn.

18 October, 2013

British Columbians have been waiting for a new Water Act (our current one is 104 years old and has its problems), and now that wait may be finally coming to an end with today’s release of a “legislative proposal” for a new Water Sustainability Act.  We’ll be releasing our analysis in the coming days and weeks, but we need you to press the government immediately for a strong act that lives up to the promise of “sustainability.”

15 October, 2013

Last Tuesday (October 8th), the Province paper had an important story – Environment ministry continues to shield Water Act violators – about the Ministry of Environment’s refusal to identify companies and people that don’t pay their fines for violating the Water Act, based on a government report obtained by West Coast. The BC government charges or tickets such a small number of environmental offenders as it is.  What does it say when we can’t even get those offenders to pay? As a parent, I know that it’s important to set boundaries, and to follow through on the consequences if those boundaries are broken.  In BC, we may have set environmental boundaries with impressive sounding consequences, but we are failing to follow through – both in terms of charging major offenders, and in terms of making sure that they pay for the consequences.   

15 October, 2013

Recently we asked our readers to write to the Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC) to talk about their concerns with the Canadian government’s actions in dismantling our environmental laws in omnibus budget bills (Bills C-38 and C-45).  Well, now we’re taking those concerns to Washington, DC to attend the CEC’s public conference, to meet with members of the CEC’s Joint Public Advisory Committee (JPAC) and to press the Canadian government not to bring into force the worst of the changes to our Fisheries Act.  Here’s a recorded statement from Anna Johnston, our staff lawyer, about why she’s going to Washington, and what she’s going to tell the CEC when she gets there.

11 October, 2013

Recently West Coast Staff Lawyer, Deborah Carlson, spoke to the Climate Change Committee of the BC Water and Waste Association (BCWWA) about whether local governments and professionals dealing with water management more or less likely to be sued if they seriously examine for climate impacts. The answer should be obvious, but we're hearing this question more and more.  Our view is that responsible governments – governments that inform themselves about the best available climate science and the likely impacts on their communities – are less, rather than more likely, to be successfully sued.