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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.

25 June, 2013

Earlier this month, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), an arm of Health Canada that regulates pesticides, released its report into the deaths of honey bees in Ontario and Quebec that occurred in the Spring of 2012 – concluding that certain pesticides (known as neonicotinoids) likely played a role.  So how is the PMRA dealing with the worrying discovery that neonicotinoids are playing a role in the loss of bees? The PMRA has a clear mandate to take immediate action to stop the use of neonicotinoids in situations in which pollinators may be affected.  Instead, it has adopted a half-hearted, industry-deferential response to the report’s findings that seems to call into question the PMRA’s approach to the regulation of pesticides.

20 June, 2013

This week is a good time to think about climate science, and especially how governments listen to, and act on, the recommendations of climate experts.  It’s a good time to think about climate experts here in Canada, because one year ago the Canadian government got rid of the main expert agency responsible for advising it on environmental issues, including climate change.  And in Australia the Climate Change Commission, a similar expert government advisory body, issued a major report that highlights that tackling climate change means leaving 80% of fossil fuel reserves in the ground.  Two different countries, and two very different attitudes towards climate science. 

18 June, 2013

Among the most controversial elements of Bill C-38, passed a year ago (June 18th, 2012) was the decision to “take the guts out” of the Fisheries Act by abandoning long-standing legal protections for fish habitat –the ecosystems that sustain our iconic salmon and other species – and replacing them with weaker rules that prohibit only “serious harm to fish.”  But the outcry and concern was so great that the federal government has never implemented its planned changes to the Fisheries Act to weaken fish habitat protection. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has indicated that as soon as July existing protections for fish habitat could be repealed and replaced by the new weaker rules. Please tell the federal government to maintain strong legal protection for fish and their habitat today.

17 June, 2013

“We stand together! We stand together! We stand together!” On June 5th, 2013, West Coast Environmental Law’s Executive Director Jessica Clogg and three legal interns joined the hundreds of voices chanting “We stand together!” outside the Federal Court in downtown Vancouver. The crowd was gathered to support Hupacasath First Nation’s courageous and inspiring effort in launching a legal challenge against the Federal Government. The lawsuit attacks the ominous Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) by claiming the government has violated the Constitution’s section 35 Aboriginal rights.

17 June, 2013

Congratulations to the people of the east coast of Vancouver Island who have been fighting the controversial Raven Coal Project, proposed by Compliance Coal Corporation.  On May 16th the BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) sent a letter to Compliance Coal refusing to conduct a detailed review of the project and outlining a whole host of problems with the Coal company’s application for an environmental assessment.  But promises of a revised application for a detailed assessment, and new applications for coal mining rights, emphasize yet again that some areas are simply not appropriate for mine development.  Until BC modernizes its mining laws to balance mineral rights with other rights and values it looks like the residents of the east coast of Vancouver Island are going to have to say “no” to coal mining companies over and over. 

14 June, 2013

On June 5th Organizing for Change, a coalition made up of West Coast Environmental Law and 11 other leading environmental organizations, wrote to Premier Christy Clark to thank her for asking, on behalf of British Columbians, that the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel (JRP) recommend against approving the Enbridge pipelines and tankers project.  However, the pipeline company, the federal government, and others seem to think that they can persuade her to change her mind.  British Columbians will be watching carefully and will insist that Premier Clark continue to show leadership not just on the Enbridge tankers and pipelines project, but on other projects that would bring tar sands oil to BC’s coast.  True “clarity” on these projects would be to say no to all tar sands pipeline and tanker projects and to take concrete legal action to back up this reasoned position.

29 May, 2013

This is a guest post from Carol Linnitt, and was originally published on DeSmog Blog. To see the original post, click here.

Sure they’re bad for the environment, for human health, and for wildlife, but we rarely stop to wonder if the Alberta tar sands are in fact unconstitutional.


27 May, 2013

Like many,  I did not see Premier Christy Clark’s surprise majority win coming.  The environmental community, West Coast Environmental Law included, saw some of the other parties as offering stronger environmental platforms.  So, with the election dust settling, the question is what does the new government mean for environmental law in BC?  We examine some of the specific environmental commitments made by the BC Liberals in their election platform, or during and prior to the election, that we will expect that new BC government to deliver on.

9 May, 2013

On Earth Day (April 22nd) we joined many other environmental organizations in applauding Adrian Dix and the NDP for standing up for our coast, and expressing opposition to the expansion of the KinderMorgan Pipeline. Although the NDP’s position is a bit less precise than the BC Green platform (which pledges to “Reject any expansion of the Kinder-Morgan pipeline from Alberta to Vancouver“), it is a clear indication of where the party stands. It is sometimes said that the federal government has the ultimate say on the proposed Enbridge and Kinder Morgan Pipelines and Tankers Projects.  But the reality is that the province has a strong and legitimate interests in respect of both proposals, and has the legal power to protect many of BC’s resources from such projects. 

9 May, 2013

It was a very long way to travel to be turned away at the door. 

As I noted in an earlier post, a delegation of us journeyed from BC to Enbridge’s Annual General Meeting, on Wednesday, May 8th, to deliver to shareholders and the Board of Directors a message about the financial risk of the Northern Gateway pipelines and tankers project.  The Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal has created unprecedented unity amongst BC communities opposed to the project, and our diverse group represented many of those communities:  First Nations, farmers, fishers, unions, and environmental organizations.  Proxies had been carefully assigned the week before through following the standard online registration process administered by CIBC Mellon.  Everyone had thought long and hard about what they wanted to say on the meeting floor.