1 Environmental Law Alert Blog | West Coast Environmental Law

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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.

14 January, 2016

West Coast has previously suggested that, in spite of the Province of British Columbia’s “tough talk” on oil pipelines, it has been trying to pass the decision-making buck to the federal government’s National Energy Board (NEB).  A year ago, the Gitga’at First Nation and Coastal First Nations (CFN) sought a court declaration that the provincial government was required to make its own decision about whether to issue a provincial Environmental Assessment (EA) Certificate for the Enbridge Northern Gateway project, and to consult with First Nations before doing so. Now, in a judgment released January 13, the BC Supreme Court found that, although BC’s Environmental Assessment Act provides BC authority to cooperate with the federal government to avoid duplicating EAs, BC must nonetheless make its own decision about issuing an EA Certificate. What what does that mean for Enbridge Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan?

13 January, 2016

As Shakespeare wrote more than 400 years ago, “Action is eloquence.” And now we see some eloquent action, more than forty years since the first Trudeau government declared a moratorium on oil tanker traffic for British Columbia’s North Coast. We think it’s poetic justice that this year the new Trudeau government has promised to make the protection permanent. WCEL applauds the commitment in the Mandate Letters to the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard which include formalizing the moratorium  as a top priority for both Ministries. We’ve been outspoken advocates for a legislated oil tanker prohibition on the Pacific north coast for many years, and we have been getting a lot of questions about this issue. So we are pleased to release a Backgrounder that addresses many of the frequently asked questions.

23 December, 2015

In the haggard, pre-Christmas weeks after the Paris climate negotiations, staff Counsel Andrew Gage is home with his family in Victoria and Communications Specialist Anjali Appadurai has just finished the long journey to India to visit family. At COP21 we did keep an eye on the ongoing international negotiations towards the now-signed Paris Agreement. But we also went to Paris to join a conversation that is critical in its own right – a conversation about where the climate movement needs to go post-Paris. More specifically, we wanted to talk about how to target some of the biggest drivers of climate change and the most significant blockers of progress: the fossil fuel industry. How do we, as a movement, hold this industry accountable for their actions?

18 December, 2015

Over the past year, West Coast supported First Nations battling Enbridge in court, helped Canadians prepare to vote for the environment, and took our plan for climate compensation to Paris for the United Nations Climate Conference. And that's just the beginning!

We invite you to visit our year in review and take a moment to reflect back on a year of successes and milestones with us.

14 December, 2015

An agreement has been reached in Paris, and myself and West Coast’s Community and Engagement Specialist, Anjali Appadurai, were present, and saw the back and forth of negotiations (or at least that part of it that occurred in public) first hand. It has been described by environmental organizations as anywhere from a “historic moment” (Climate Action Network Canada) to “a sham of a deal” (Friends of the Earth International).  Our own view is somewhere in between: the agreement could help us transition from a fossil fuel economy to a more sustainable future, but only if countries all around the world, and especially Canada, work really hard.

11 December, 2015

As a lawyer I’m supposed to be able to give a pundit’s opinion on just how well Canada is doing, and whether we are working towards a strong and fair international agreement.  But the reality is that it’s surprisingly difficult to tell, even here in Paris. That’s partly because I’m still learning, partly because key discussions about what countries are offering and giving up are occurring behind the scenes, but mostly because everything is intertwined and constantly in motion.

In general, Canada is doing well in some very important areas. However, it is difficult to give an unqualified endorsement.  The new government seems not to have grappled with some more challenging questions of fairness and Canada’s contribution to climate change. As such is aligning itself with unhelpful and aggressive positions – especially in its efforts to limit discussions about how to help the world’s most vulnerable communities.

11 December, 2015

The following is a guest post by John Bonine, a colleague and friend to West Coast Environmental Law. He wrote it as a personal observation to friends, and we reproduce it here with his permission. 

Nearly 5 years ago, the Ukrainian environmental lawyer and law professor, Svitlana Kravchenko, who would later become my wife, asked a question during a conference in Florida. Her question should confront all of us as a result of the release a few hours ago of the latest proposed text of the “Paris Agreement” on climate change.  

1 December, 2015

Water, water everywhere. At this wet time of year, it may not seem that protecting the amount of water flowing in streams and rivers throughout the province is a top priority. Yet when you think back to this summer’s severe drought, or read that we’re headed for another troubling year for sockeye, as spawning salmon returns are far lower than predicted, it becomes clear why West Coast Environmental Law and many allies recently wrote to the government of BC setting out our Expectations for Environmental Flows Regulations  under the BC Water Sustainability Act. Our number one point: the government needs to have an environmental flows regulation. 

20 November, 2015

In September, the Fort Nelson First Nation won a major legal challenge at the Environmental Appeal Board (EAB) that overturned a long term water license issued to gas giant Nexen Inc for hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”). The EAB decision is an important win – setting new precedents on how water managers should deal with scientific uncertainty and the government’s obligations to consult First Nations on water use.

20 November, 2015

When Canada elected Justin Trudeau on a platform of change and open and honest government, the season began for a storm of open letters to the government expressing the hopes and demands of the nation – and the government’s responses, in some cases. Staff Counsel Eugene Kung provides the story of some of these letters, including two that West Coast was a signatory of.