Environmental Law Centre

B.C. Rejects Request for Inquiry into Mining Practices

energy and mines minister bill bennett

Widespread criticism of B.C.’s mining rules is undeserved according to Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett, who has turned down a recommendation from the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre for a judicial inquiry into mining regulation.

Given the significant changes this government has made to how mining is undertaken and overseen in British Columbia, including changes to law and policy, additional resources to improve permitting processes and significantly strengthened compliance and enforcement, Government categorically disagrees that a Commission of Public Enquiry (sic) into the Province’s mining industry serves the taxpayers of B.C. Such a process would be demonstrably redundant,” Bennett wrote in a letter to the ELC.

The response has exasperated Calvin Sandborn, ELC legal director, who said the rejection is likely to cost B.C. taxpayers dearly because of immense costs of mine reclamation where environmental damage has been caused by poor government oversight and minimal enforcement of the polluter-pay principle.

Tweet: “You can pay for an awful lot of public inquiries if you avoid just 1 disaster.” http://bit.ly/2oV8Jsr #bcpoli #cdnpoli #Alaska #bcelxn17You can pay for an awful lot of public inquiries if you avoid just one disaster,” said Sandborn, who points to how previous public inquiries have improved regulatory systems and helped restore public confidence.

Public Inquiry Formally Requested to Investigate B.C.’s Shoddy Mining Rules

The ramshackle regulatory system governing B.C.’s mining industry is profoundly dysfunctional and the public has lost confidence in the province’s ability to protect the environment and communities from poor mining activities, says a new report from the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre.

The wide-ranging report, released Wednesday, was commissioned for the Fair Mining Collaborative — a non-profit group that helps First Nations communities assess mining activities — and recommends that the provincial government establish a Commission of Public Inquiry to investigate B.C.’s regulation of the mining industry.

A judicial inquiry is needed because mining is a multi-billion dollar industry that can create jobs and great wealth, but can also create “catastrophic and long-lasting threats to entire watersheds and to critical public assets such as fish, clean water, wildlife and public health,” according to the report, which is signed by ELC legal director Calvin Sandborn and law student Kirsty Broadhead.

Trans Mountain Oil Pipeline Review ‘Vexed from Outset’

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan

The review of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion has been plagued by a critical lack of evidence, members of a National Energy Board panel heard in Burnaby last week.

Chris Tollefson, lawyer from the Environmental Law Centre representing intervenors BC Nature and Nature Canada, said the evidence presented in the hearings is insufficient to prevent the panel from discharging its duty under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Fundamentally we say there is a lack of evidence for you to do your job,” he said.

UVic Report Calling for Updates to Charities Law Creates Stir

CRA charity audit charity chill, UVic, ELC report

The release of a University of Victoria study calling for updates to Canadian charitable law created quite a stir last week.

The study, prepared for DeSmog Canada, was covered by the Toronto Star, Vancouver Sun, Victoria Times Colonist, Canadian Press, Macleans, The Tyee, Yahoo! News and CFAX.

The report called for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to clarify rules around “political activities” — defined as any activity that seeks to change, oppose or retain laws or policies — and to provide a more generous limit on allowable policy advocacy in line with other common law jurisdictions such as Australia and New Zealand. It also called for the creation of a politically independent charities commission to remove the potential for political interference in audits.

The findings were raised in the House of Commons by Victoria NDP MP Murray Rankin, who stated the report “analyzes the alarming lack of clarity in the rules governing political activities for charities.”

Canada’s Charitable Law Urgently Needs Reforming: New UVic Report

Calvin Sandborn

A report released today by the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre calls for sweeping reform of Canadian charitable law in line with other jurisdictions such as the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and England.

Current rules around “political activity” — defined by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) as any activity that seeks to change, oppose or retain laws or policies — are confusing and create an “intolerable state of uncertainty,” the report says.

This has created a confused and anxious charitable sector and detracts from them carrying out their important work,” Calvin Sandborn, legal director of the Environmental Law Centre, said.

The report — prepared for DeSmog Canada — comes as 52 charities are being targeted in a $13.4 million audit program launched by the federal government in 2012 to determine whether any are violating a rule that limits spending on political activities to 10 per cent of resources. Those charities include Environmental Defence, the David Suzuki Foundation, Canada Without Poverty, Ecology Action Centre and Equiterre.

National Energy Board Rules Kinder Morgan Can Keep Pipeline Emergency Plans Secret, Weakens Faith in Process

The National Energy Board ruled in favour of Kinder Morgan Friday, allowing the company to keep its emergency response plans for the expanded Trans Mountain pipeline secret.

Kinder Morgan fought the province of British Columbia’s demands to disclose its emergency response plans for the $6.5 billion pipeline expansion that will triple the amount of oilsands crude moving from Alberta to the Burrard Inlet, arguing the information is too “sensitive.”

In a statement Kinder Morgan argued “it is not appropriate to file security sensitive information about facility operations and countermeasures.”

Eoin Madden with the Wilderness Committee, an intervenor in the Trans Mountain hearing process, said he wished this ruling came as more of a surprise.

I’d love for it to be news, but basically for the last year or so we’ve watched more and more information be denied to us intervenors in the National Energy Board process.”

Canada Singled Out in International Report on Endangered Science

muzzling of scientists zack embree

A push to prioritize economic gains over basic research is endangering science and academic freedom in countries around the world, according to a new report published by a leading researchers union, the French National Trade Union of Scientific Researchers (SNCS-FSU).

The group surveyed higher education and research unions in 12 countries including France, Argentina, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S.

The research union found governments internationally are pushing for policies “geared towards innovation in order to spur consumption and competitiveness,” according to Patrick Monfort, secretary-general of the SNCS-FSU. “Budget cuts are often blamed for our problems,” he said, “but they are only part of the picture.”

Monfort told the prestigious journal Nature that scientists in Canada have been particularly hard hit, not only by broad funding cuts, but contentious communications protocols that prevent their freedom of expression.

Decision on Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Oil Pipeline Delayed Until After Next Federal Election

Kinder Morgan pipeline protest

Canada's National Energy Board (NEB) announced today that it is stopping the clock on the review of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion due to the company’s new proposed corridor through Burnaby, B.C. — which will push a decision on the project back to after the 2015 federal election.

The board will take a seven-month timeout from its 15-month timeline between July 11, 2014, and Februrary 3, 2015, to allow Kinder Morgan time to file studies for its new corridor through Burnaby Mountain, according to a letter to intervenors sent today.

That pushes the board’s deadline to file its report on the project with cabinet back seven months from July 2, 2015, to Jan. 25, 2016.

The significant thing is that this decision now won’t be made until after the next federal election. It’ll be up to the next Prime Minister to make that call,” says Karen Campbell, staff lawyer with Ecojustice.

From a campaign perspective, it certainly gives some wind in the sails of those who want to make sure this isn’t a fait accompli before the next election,” she says.

New BC Nature Lawsuit Challenges Cabinet’s Approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline

Barnard Harbour, Douglas Channel, Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, Dogwood Initiative

A new lawsuit filed Monday challenges the federal Cabinet's decision to approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. The suit, launched by the Federation of BC Naturalists, or BC Nature, asks the Federal Court of Appeal to allow an application that declares the pipeline’s June 17, 2014 approval invalid. Today is the last day parties may apply to the Federal Court to initiate a judicial review of the project's approval.

BC Nature filed a previous lawsuit in January 2014 against the Joint Review Panel’s (JRP) recommendation the federal government approve the pipeline. That suit, filed by the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre (ELC), is still ongoing and challenges the JRP’s justification of “serious harm” to caribou and grizzly bears as well as findings regarding the consequences of a potential major oil spill.

In the lawsuit filed today, we argue that due to fundamental flaws in the JRP’s report, Cabinet was deprived of the legal authority to make a final decision on the pipeline,” Chris Tollefson, ELC Executive Director and lawyer for BC Nature, said.

Oral Hearings Quietly Vanish From Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Review

A lawyer representing the City of Burnaby says the National Energy Board (NEB) has turned its review of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline into a “mere paperwork exercise” by cutting all cross-examination from the process.

We were expecting that there would be public hearings and cross-examination of the evidence,” Gregory McDade said at a City of Burnaby information session last week. “There are no hearings … There will be no public examination of Kinder Morgan’s evidence whatsoever.”

In a YouTube video from the information session, McDade deconstructs the NEB’s April 2nd “hearing order,” noting that the only way for the City of Burnaby to raise concerns is now by submitting written “information requests.” This applies to all intervenors, including the Province of B.C. and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

They call it a hearing order, but it should be called a ‘no hearing’ order,” McDade quipped.

What we have here is a mere paperwork exercise. It is not a hearing and it is not public. It is not independent. All three panelists on the National Energy Board are from the oil and gas industry.”

Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain proposal would triple the amount of oil the company ships to Burnaby and increase the number of oil tankers travelling through Vancouver Harbour and the Gulf Islands seven-fold.

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