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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.

17 January, 2014

Canadians may soon know more about the chemicals being used to extract bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands, thanks to West Coast Environmental Law and our colleagues at Environmental Defence and the Association Québécoise de Lutte Contre la Pollution Atmosphérique (AQLPA).  But, unless the federal government can be persuaded to drop it’s narrow interpretation of pollution disclosure rules, Environment Canada won’t be requiring oil and gas companies to provide information about what chemicals are used in hydraulic fracturing (fracking). This means that most Canadians will have little to no knowledge of the potentially harmful and toxic chemicals being pumped into the ground in the fracking process, The federal government is consulting with the public until February 8th, 2014.

17 January, 2014

Finding consensus among British Columbians on the controversial Site C dam that BC Hydro is seeking to build on the Peace River is challenging.  But one thing that can’t be disputed is our need of food. Call it a universal truth: we need to eat. And so this week I went to Fort St. John to help residents, farmers and citizen groups protect regional and provincial food security against plans by the BC Hydro to flood almost 16,000 acres of farmlands for the sake of industrial development and energy exports.

16 January, 2014

The National Energy Board Joint Review Panel, in its recent report endorsing the Enbridge Pipelines and Tankers Project, argued the economic benefits of the project would trump the risks to the envrionment and all the public and First Nations opposition.  But the fact is that it is precisely that public and First Nations opposition, and their determination to prevent the environmental impacts, that make the Pipeline and Tankers project an economic dead end.  The JRP Panel report seems to recommend that the project go ahead, but reading the report closely, it’s clear: if we hold the wall, the Enbridge Pipelines and Tankers Project is going nowhere. 

6 January, 2014

The beginning of the year is a good time for planning, setting goals.  And with 2014 shaping up to be an important year for environmentally minded Canadians, here, briefly, are our top 3 resolutions for the coming year.

20 December, 2013

We’ve reviewed the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Compliance and Enforcement Annual Reports from 1998 to 2012.  And what we've found raises a whole lot of questions - dramatic declines in inspections and in the fines imposed on the forest industry, but stable levels of enforcement action as a whole - what's going on?

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.