West Coast Environmental Law

3 Ways B.C. Could Stop Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline

Christy Clark, Andrew Weaver, John Horgan B.C. leaders debate

The prospect of a new provincial government in B.C. has sparked fresh political debate about Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline, which is opposed by B.C.’s NDP and Green Party, despite already receiving provincial and federal approval.

There are no tools available for a province to overturn or otherwise block a federal government decision,” stated Alberta Premier Rachel Notley this week.

But is that really the case?

The short answer is no.

Five Handy Facts About the Northern B.C. Oil Tanker Ban

Nathan E Stewart Heiltsuk Nation April Bencze

A bill to restrict the movement of oil off the north coast of British Columbia has been formally tabled by the federal government in the House of Commons, according to a statement released by Transport Canada Friday.

The proposed legislation, which would restrict tankers carrying more than 12,500 metric tons of crude oil from entering or exiting north coast ports, must now make its way through Parliament.

Today is a positive day for us,” Gavin Smith, staff counsel at West Coast Environmental Law, told DeSmog Canada.

We’re very happy to see the federal government follow through on its promise to introduce a tanker ban.”

Smith said the legislation will prevent megaprojects like the Northern Gateway pipeline from being built in northern B.C. but added he has yet to review the text of the bill in detail.

How to Fix the National Energy Board, Canada's 'Captured Regulator'

The National Energy Board (NEB) is a “captured regulator” that has “lost touch with what it means to protect the public interest.”

That’s what Marc Eliesen — former head of BC Hydro, Ontario Hydro and Manitoba Hydro, and former deputy minister of energy in Ontario and Manitoba — told the NEB Modernization Expert Panel on Wednesday morning in Vancouver.

The bottom line is that the board’s behaviour during the Trans Mountain review not only exposed the process as a farce, it exposed the board as a captured regulator,” he said to the five-member panel.

Tweet: “Regulatory capture exists when a regulator ceases to be independent and objective.” http://bit.ly/2kUzoTv #cdnpoli #EnergyEast #TransMtnRegulatory capture exists when a regulator ceases to be independent and objective.”

The Trans Mountain pipeline was reviewed with what many consider a heavily politicized NEB process, one that Trudeau had committed to changing prior to issuing a federal verdict on the project.

North Coast Oil Tanker Ban Won’t Actually Ban Tankers Full of Oil Products on B.C.’s North Coast

oil tanker ban

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s November proposal to ban oil tanker traffic from B.C.’s north coast received kind reception on the west coast of Canada where the Heiltusk First Nation was still busy responding to a devastating diesel spill from the Nathan E. Stewart, a sunken fuel barge tug that was leaking fuel into shellfish harvest grounds near Bella Bella.

The tanker ban, however, won’t protect the coast from incidents like the Nathan E. Stewart from happening again, nor from the threat of future refined oil tankers passing through the same waters, according to a new analysis by West Coast Environmental Law.

Reviewing the tanker ban proposal, which has yet to be passed as legislation, West Coast identified numerous loopholes and exclusions that allow for the continued transport of oil on B.C.’s north coast via foreign fuel barges and even, potentially, in supertankers full of refined oil products like jet fuel.

A Surprisingly Simple Solution to Canada’s Stalled Energy Debate

If you feel exhausted by Canada’s fevered debates about oil pipelines, liquefied natural gas terminals, renewable energy projects and mines, there just might be relief in sight.

Right now, the federal government is reviewing its environmental assessment (EA) process. Yes, it’s reviewing its reviews. And while that might sound kinda boring, it could actually revolutionize the way Canada makes decisions about energy projects.

My highest hope is that Canada will take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity … and take a really visionary approach to environmental assessment,” said Anna Johnston, staff counsel at West Coast Environmental Law.

That could include implementing something called “strategic environmental assessment,” which creates a forum for the larger discussions about things like oil exports, LNG development or all mining in an area.

So instead of the current environmental assessment process, in which pipeline reviews have become proxy battles for issues such as climate change and cumulative effects, there’d actually be a higher-level review designed specifically to examine those big-picture questions. 

Can Canada Save Its Fish Habitat Before It’s Too Late?

Salmon

Thirteen years ago, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) issued almost 700 authorizations to projects that would negatively impact fish habitat, mostly in the resource extraction sector: forestry, mining, oil and gas.

By last fiscal year, that number had dropped to 74.

One would think that’s a positive sign. Perhaps the DFO approved far fewer projects, echoing its ambitious 1986 commitment to “no net loss” of fish habitat?

That wasn’t the case.

Thanks to a number of changes — mostly via the “Environmental Process Modernization Plan” of the mid-2000s and the Conservative Party’s industry-led gutting of the Fisheries Act in 2012 — most projects are now “self-assessed” by proponents.

Over the same span, the DFO’s budget was repeatedly slashed, increasingly undermining the department’s ability to monitor and enforce contraventions with “boots on the ground.”

Harm is happening at the same levels that it always has been,” says Martin Olszynski, assistant professor in law at University of Calgary who specializes in environmental, water and natural resources law. “It’s just that fewer and fewer proponents are coming to DFO and asking for authorization. That’s the reality on the ground.”

Got Coal? The Burning Problem with Canada’s Port Authorities

Canada’s major ports handle more than 300 million tonnes of cargo every year. They’re how we import products like cars and TVs and how we export commodities like grain and oil. Yet many of us have likely never thought of how the country’s 18 Canada Port Authorities (CPAs) are run — until now.

The way that decisions are made at Canada’s ports are coming under increasing scrutiny from environmentalists, who take issue with ports operating as both a promoter and regulator of trade.

The boards of directors of Canada’s port authorities determine what terminals receive approval for construction, and thus what types of commodities end up leaving the harbour.

Take Port Metro Vancouver (officially known as the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority), for example. It’s the largest port authority by tonnage in the country: in 2015 it facilitated the exchange of 138 million tonnes of cargo.

In September 2012, Fraser Surrey Docks — one of 28 marine terminals located at Port Metro Vancouver — announced plans to export eight million tonnes of thermal coal mined in Montana and Wyoming to Asian markets every year.

New Report Shows “Systematic Dismantling” of Canada’s Environmental Laws Under Conservative Government

A new report released Wednesday chronicles the changes made to Canada’s environmental laws under the federal Conservatives since they formed government in 2011.

The report, released by West Coast Environmental Law and the Quebec Environmental Law Centre, highlights “the repeal or amendment of most of Canada’s foundational environmental laws since 2011” and suggests many of the changes were a “gift to industry.”

The record suggests that industry lobbied hard for removing environmental protections that it believed were impeding business,” the report states.

Major changes include the weakening of the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which removed 99 per cent of Canada’s lakes and rivers from protection, as well as changes to the Fisheries Act and the Species at Risk Act.

Weakening of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act means approximately 90 per cent of major industry projects that would have undergone a federal review no longer will, according to the report.

Karine Peloffy, director general of the Quebec Environmental Law Centre, said Canada’s environmental legislation is intrinsically tied into the fabric of the country’s democracy.

Our waters, species, and our very democracy have been put at risk by changes made to our environmental laws since 2011,” Peloffy said.

Canada’s Emissions Cost the World 8,800 Lives and $15.4 Billion Every Year

This is a guest post by Andrew Gage, staff counsel with West Coast Environmental Law.

Canada is not a super-power. We’re geographically large, but small in terms of population. And when it comes to climate change we’re used to hearing politicians say that we’re “only” responsible for about two per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions — so what we do to stop our contribution to climate change doesn’t matter.

West Coast’s climate work focuses on the reality that we can’t keep pretending that greenhouse gas emissions are not a deadly serious problem. The world (including Canada) is experiencing disastrous flooding, sea-level rise, extreme storms, droughts and heat waves, increased frequency and intensity of forest fires, the spread of pest species and other climate-related impacts here and now. Because of the scale of the damages, even smaller contributions are responsible for devastating results.

Suncor Argues "All of Us" are Complicit in Climate Change, But New Lawsuits Could Prove Otherwise

suncor oilsands payback time andrew gage desmog canada

At West Coast Environmental Law we're gratified that Suncor, one of Canada's largest oilsands companies, has taken the time to read  and publicly disagree with  our recent report, Payback Time.

Payback Time examined the risks to Suncor and other Canadian fossil fuel companies of lawsuits brought by the victims of climate change outside of Canada

Suncor responded with a blog post entitled “What to do when everyone is the problem” that cleverly attempts to downplay Payback Time as just one of several efforts to single out a culprit for climate change. Suncor then argues that we are all to blame, suggesting that singling Suncor out for special blame is simply wishful thinking on the part of equally blame-worthy polluters (i.e. the general public).

Some groups are quick to single out individual countries, based on GHG emissions volumes generated within their borders. Others point the finger at specific industrial sectors which generate significant GHG emissions. Some lay the blame squarely on corporations which produce energy [linking to Payback Time] from fossil fuel sources. 

The hard, undeniable truth is that all of us, as fortunate members of the developed world, are complicit when it comes to GHG emissions…

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