Canadian Environmental Assessment Act

Mining Giant Taseko Seeks to Revive B.C. Gold Mine Twice-Rejected by Harper Government

Two rejections by the federal government have not deterred a Vancouver mining company from again heading to court in an effort to quash Ottawa’s decision to turn down a proposal for an open-pit copper and gold mine in an area where the Tsilhqot’in Nation has established aboriginal rights.

Taseko Mines Ltd. is appearing in Federal Court in Vancouver this week to launch a constitutional challenge to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and ask for a judicial review of the federal government’s decision to reject the proposed $1.5-billion New Prosperity Mine, 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake.

Despite the project gaining provincial approval in 2010, the federal government turned down the proposal in 2010 and 2014, saying there would be severe environmental damage and immitigable adverse effects on Tsilhqot’in culture, heritage and aboriginal rights.

Finding a Lifeline for Canada’s Threatened Arctic Caribou

Canada’s great, white north seems to be getting a little less white as the years go by thanks to above-average increases in Arctic temperatures and increasing levels of industrial development.

Still, the north remains great, and there’s nothing more emblematic of that greatness than the astounding 1,000-kilometre seasonal migration of the region’s barren-ground caribou herds.

Named for their habitat — sprawling Arctic tundra which extends beyond the northern tree line — barren-ground caribou have experienced alarming population declines for years, according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), and those declines are occurring alongside unprecedented levels of climate change and habitat disturbance.

Southeast Alaskans Ask Canada to Strengthen Its Environmental Laws

British Columbia’s environmental review process simply isn’t strong enough to protect Alaskan communities and rivers from the province’s mining boom, Jill Weitz, American campaigner with Salmon Beyond Borders, recently told a panel reviewing Canada’s environmental assessment process.

Weitz, who works to protect Alaska’s wild salmon runs, traveled to Prince Rupert to tell a trio of experts appointed by the federal government how a more robust federal environmental assessment process could help address transboundary concerns arising in the wake of B.C.’s major push for new mines.

The federally appointed panel is currently reviewing the environmental assessment process managed by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency which is responsible for reviewing major development projects including pipelines, oil and gas development and mines. Changes made under the previous federal government excluded major mines in British Columbia from the federal environmental assessment process — a legislative change Weitz and others say left Alaska in an uncomfortable position.

The transboundary region traversing the border of northwest B.C. and southeast Alaska is home to three major salmon rivers, the Taku, Stikine and Unuk. The rivers flow into Alaska from an area in B.C. that is home to 10 new mines either proposed or already under construction.

Open Science: Can Canada Turn the Tide on Transparency in Decision-Making?

It describes a framework but could just as easily be read as a request: open science.

And it’s something top of mind for Canadian scientists right now as the federal government is considering changes to the very way science is used to make major decisions about things like pipelines, oil and gas development and mines.

The ongoing federal review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is a huge opportunity to restore scientific integrity to decision-making, scientist Aerin Jacob told DeSmog Canada.

I really can’t underscore how big an opportunity this is,” Jacob, Liber Ero postdoctoral scholar at the University of Victoria, said, adding Canada could transform the very way science feeds into the environmental assessment and decision-making process.

One of the challenges being a scientist in wanting to evaluate government’s decisions is that we can’t see the evidence. We can’t see how decisions are being made.”

Tweet: “It’s like a black box of decision-making. That’s not scientifically rigorous.” http://bit.ly/2igQ9TQ #cdnpoli #environmental #assessmentsIt’s like a black box of decision-making. That’s not scientifically rigorous.”

Canadian Scientists Say They’re Unsure What Trudeau Means When He Says ‘Science’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned aggressively on the issue of science in the lead up to the last federal election. And it makes sense that he did: for the first time ever in Canadian history the issue of scientific integrity was a major election issue for voters across the nation.

Images of shuttered libraries, gagged scientists and dumpsters full of books haunted the Canadian imagination under the Harper government.

Trudeau promised to change all of that. Brandishing the language of the scientific community itself Trudeau painted a vision of a Canadian scientific renaissance, with the restoration of scientific integrity and the veritable holy grail of political vows: evidence-based decision-making.

As a scientist, I was personally thrilled with the Liberal government’s vocal support for science, especially regarding the critical role that scientific evidence should play in informed decision-making,” Wendy Palen, associate professor and biologist at Simon Fraser University, told DeSmog Canada.

In the early days of the federal government under Trudeau, there were several events that shored up that sense of optimism including the anchoring of ministerial duties in science in open mandate letters and restored funding for research in the first Liberal budget.

Trudeau also promised to bring social and scientific credibility back to the environmental assessments of major resource projects.

I think I can say the scientific community breathed a sigh of relief over the change in attitude around science and the role of scientific decision-making,” Palen said.

But, she added, that sentiment has stopped short in recent months.

How Harper’s Changes to Environmental Laws Are Being Leveraged by Pipeline Companies

On June 23, the Federal Court of Appeal struck down the Harper government’s approval of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline on account of failing to properly consult with adversely affected First Nations.

Many environmental and Indigenous groups cited the ruling as a win, but buried in the decision is a legal interpretation that upholds former Primer Minister Stephen Harper’s changes to environmental assessment law in the country.

Some argue this interpretation of the new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) will undermine the ability for the public to challenge the legality of environmental assessment reports for future projects, such as Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline and TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline.

New Public Interest Law Office to Fight B.C.’s Biggest Environmental Battles

There just aren’t enough lawyers in B.C. to fight all the environmental battles First Nations, individuals and groups face on a regular basis in the province, according to University of Victoria lawyer Chris Tollefson.

As a solution, Tollefson, the founder of the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre, and a handful of legal experts and litigators recently launched a new public interest environmental law outfit that will take on some of the most powerful forces in B.C., from Malaysian-owned Petronas to government ministries to BC Hydro.

The new legal non-profit, the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation (CELL), will focus on environmental litigation, legislative reform and, as Tollefson describes it, “training up the next generation of young public interest environmental lawyers.”

Tollefson, who served as a former president of Ecojustice, one of Canada's most prominent environmental legal non-profits, Tweet: There is more work than existing environmental law organizations can handle http://bit.ly/2aBXcoG #bcpolisaid there is more work than existing organizations can handle.

That sentiment is echoed by Bob Peart, executive director of Sierra Club BC, and one of the centre's first clients. 

“I think litigation is vital and it's so hard to move this government in any other way,” Peart told DeSmog Canada. “You can build up the wall of public noise as much as you like but litigation seems to be a lever they at least half listen to.”

10 Reasons Ottawa Should Rebuild Our Environmental Assessment Law from Scratch

By Chris Tollefson for IRPP.

The Trudeau government has recently announced a sweeping review process that could culminate in what has been described as “the most fundamental transformation of federal environmental law in a generation.” This review, among other things, will determine the fate of the controversial law that governs federal environmental assessments, known as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA, 2012).

Ironically, CEAA, 2012, a statute that the Harper government radically revamped to be industry-friendly, nowadays has very few friends. Even key industry insiders admit that the legislation, aimed primarily at expediting the approval of major new resource development projects, has been a spectacular failure. Not only are many major environment assessments (EAs) that are underway under CEAA, 2012 stalled, mired in controversy, tied up in litigation (or all of the above), but more importantly, Canadians have lost trust in the way we assess and make decisions about these projects.

Tweet: Can the #Enviro Assessment Act be renovated, or is it a tear-down? 10 good reasons to believe the latter: http://bit.ly/29HSgR5 #cdnpoliCan CEAA, 2012 be renovated, or is it a tear-down? There are at least ten good reasons to believe the latter.

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.

B.C. Removes Mandatory Environmental Review of Natural Gas, Ski Resort Developments

bc, fracking, environmental assessment

Major natural gas projects and ski resort developments now have the option of being built in B.C. without environmental assessment after the Liberal government quietly deposited two orders in council Monday. (Update April 17, 2014: The B.C. government has rescinded this decision. Read our new post here)

The orders — passed without public consultation — include changes to the Reviewable Projects Regulation under the provincial Environmental Assessment Act, which eliminate mandatory environmental review of new and/or modified natural gas and ski facilities. As a result, proposed projects like the Jumbo Glacier Resort or new natural gas processing facilities may skirt the approval process without standard environment review, which involves public consultation.

These regulatory changes only heighten the crisis of public confidence in B.C.’s environmental assessment process,” said Jessica Clogg, executive director and senior counsel with West Coast Environmental Law Association (WCEL) in a press release.

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