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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.

19 April, 2013

Tools and resources that raise environmental issues in the context of an election are always of interest over here at the West Coast Environmental Law Association.  So we thought we’d direct our readers to two new tools: VoteEnvironment2013 and the CBC Vote Compass. 

10 April, 2013

Last Thursday, April 4th the National Energy Board (NEB) announced that anyone who wished to comment on Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline proposal in Central Canada even by simply writing a letter would need to fill out a 10 page application form within 2 weeks.  This is, of course, absurd, since it will take the NEB far longer to review these 10 page applications and decide who will be allowed to write a letter, then it would have taken to read the letters. While the NEB says this new form is in response to Bill C-38 and the new CEAA 2012, in our view, it is still open to the NEB to adopt a more open process in relation to its decisions under the NEB Act – both in relation to Line 9 and generally.  Public participation is a good thing!

9 April, 2013

A snow storm that blew through central Canada made this year’s March 19 Ottawa’s snowiest on record.  But there was more than weather to distinguish this as a historic date. In the evening, nine First Nations from across North America came together in a ceremony to mark the ever-growing opposition to tar sands pipelines, by signing of the Save the Fraser Declaration and the International Treaty to Protect the Sacred from Tar Sands Projects. Although the storm had kept many witnesses away, those of us who had made it were moved by the ceremony and honoured to be present.

8 April, 2013

A press release issued last Tuesday (April 2nd), by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (the Agency) concerning a proposed Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) Export Terminal at Kitimat, BC referred to the "strengthened and modernized Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012)."  This term appears literally tens of thousands of times on web pages, press releases and other documents generated by the Agency.  “Strengthened”?  “Modernized”?  In what way is CEAA 2012 strengthened, compared to the old CEAA? The reality is that CEAA 2012 was a major step back for environmental assessment in Canada. 

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.