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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.

2 April, 2013

As the Yinka Dene Alliance and their allies were gathering in Ottawa to renew their opposition to Tar Sands Pipelines on March 19th, Natural Resource Minister, Joe Oliver, was in Terrace, BC, to announce the appointment of Vancouver-based lawyer, Douglas Eyford, as a “Special Federal Representative on West Coast Energy Infrastructure” to talk to BC’s First Nations about energy infrastructure. While we’re glad that the Canadian government has stated they will listen to First Nations, it needs to take a step back and not pre-judge the outcome of those conversations.  If the conversations are just trying to find some cosmetic fixes so that pipelines can continue, then they are wasting everyone’s time.

28 March, 2013

In BC, key protection for fish habitat is supposed to be provided by the Riparian Areas Regulation (RAR) – a law intended to ensure that residential and other development is set back from the waterways that provide critical fish habitat on lands regulated by local governments. Unfortunately, this law is not working because the RAR turns responsibility for assessing exactly what is needed to protect fish habitat over to private professionals – consultants hired by the developer.  If that’s not the fox guarding the hen house, it’s at least the fox hiring the guard. 

12 March, 2013

In December 2012 the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria published a collection of environmental law reform proposals, with contributions from a variety of leading environmental lawyers, which included a number of essays from West Coast Environmental Law. This essay, by West Coast Environmental Law Executive Director Jessica Clogg, is one of several contributed by West Coast Environmental Law staff which we will be printing in the coming weeks.  It examines how land use planning needs to be changed to address the challenges of climate change and the needs of nature. 

11 March, 2013

When is a municipality not a municipality? When no one lives there.  West Coast Environmental Law is proud to support the West Kootenay Ecosociety in their challenge to the the Jumbo Glacier Resort Mountain Municipality – a “municipality” without people, with a mayor and council appointed by the cabinet, created to facilitate the development of the Jumbo Glacier Resort.   We hope that this case will establish that a municipality is a fundamental unit of democracy – not a tool that can be manipulated for the benefit of a large developer. 

4 March, 2013

This interview was originally published by Digital Journal and was written by Grace C. Visconti. Click here to go to the article as it was originally published.

Vancouver - West Coast Environmental Law Executive Director and Senior Counsel Jessica Clogg explains ramifications of Bill C-45, First Nations Rights, and FIPA. Jessica provides legal and strategic support to First Nations to help protect land and resources of their territories.

27 February, 2013

Last  Wednesday (Feb 20th) the Provincial government announced proposed amendments to the Forest Act that will provide for the conversion of volume-based forest licences to area-based tree farm licences.  This change has the potential to increase corporate control over our forests.  At West Coast we have always believed that large-scale industrial control of our province’s forests is not in the public interest. Locking in a long-term requirement that those forests must always be managed for the sake of growing timber for cutting above all other interests, or the companies can claim compensation when other values are protected, is not in the public interest – not to mention its implications for the unextinguished Aboriginal Title and Rights of First Nations. We have therefore resisted, along with thousands of other British Columbians, previous efforts to roll over logging rights into Tree Farm Licences. This major amendment should be dropped from the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act.  If it is passed, we hope that the next government will see fit to repeal it.

22 February, 2013

Premier Christie Clark once promised a ban on cosmetic pesticides in BC, but the BC government is now promising laws that require that licensed pesticide applicators be hired for pesticide use for cosmetic purposes, "with some exceptions."  West Coast, the Canadian Cancer Society, the David Suzuki Foundation and a wide coalition of other organizations have repeatedly asked for a ban, and that's the approach that a large majority of British Columbians support.  With opposition parties championing a true ban, there’s every possibility that this could become an election issue in the near future.  And, frankly, the government’s promise to require home owners to hire licensed applicators may not satisfy anyone but the licensed applicators  and the pesticide companies.

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.