liability

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.

British Columbians Saddled With $40 Million Clean-Up Bill as Imperial Metals Escapes Criminal Charges

Mount Polley Mine Disaster

British Columbian taxpayers will be on the hook for $40 million to clean up the worst mining spill in Canadian history and the company responsible has once again escaped criminal charges after a private prosecution was dismissed this week. 

In August 2014 the 40-metre-high tailings dam at the Mount Polley mine near Williams Lake collapsed, sending 25-million cubic metres of contaminated sludge and mine waste sweeping into lakes and rivers — but no charges have been laid and no fines have been levied against Imperial Metals, the parent company of Mount Polley Mining Corp.

Since 2005, Mount Polley Mining Corp and Imperial Metals Corp have donated $195,010 to British Columbia’s ruling B.C. Liberal party.

Cost of Abandoned, Contaminated Mine Sites in B.C. $508 Million, Up 83 Per Cent Since 2014

Costs associated with the closure and reclamation of 84 abandoned industrial sites, mostly from mining, in B.C. have increased to $508 million, according to new information released from the Crown Contaminated Sites Program.

Responsibility for the sites has fallen to the province because the owners or operators of the projects “no longer exist,” according to a provincial press release

The estimated cleanup costs have grown by $231 million since 2014, representing an increase of 83.4 per cent, watchdog group MiningWatch notes

According to the province, a number of the mines, like the Britannia Mine near Squamish, or the Bralorne-Takla Mine in northern B.C., that now present a risk to human and enviornmental health, operated before 1969 when modern environmental legislation was created.

Although the province is quick to highlight work done over the past two years to clean up contaminated sites, Ugo Lapointe from MiningWatch says the significant growth in overall liability signals an urgent need for reform in the mining sector.

B.C. Taxpayers On The Hook for Underfunded Mine Disaster and Reclamation Costs

Taxpayers are being put at serious financial risk by gaping holes in B.C.’s mining regulations that allow companies to underfund mine remediation or disaster costs, says a new report by economist Robyn Allan.

The report, funded by the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, describes financial assurance policies for mine site reclamation as “woefully inadequate” and estimates there is more than $1.5-billion in unfunded liability — meaning taxpayers are on the hook both for mine site reclamation, when a company leaves a contaminated site, and for catastrophic events when a company is unable to pay.

A regime to ensure mine owners have sufficient financial resources to pay for environmental damage and third-party losses from unintended mine accidents is non-existent,” wrote Allan, former CEO of ICBC and former senior economist for B.C. Central Credit Union.

The UBCIC report comes on the heels of a scathing assessment of B.C.’s mining practices by B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer and renewed pressure from U.S. politicians to have transboundary mines along the Canadian/U.S. border come under the scrutiny of an International Joint Commission.

Bill C-46 Could Transform Pipeline Liability Law in Canada. But Will it Be for the Better?

This is a guest post by Ian Miron, Ecojustice staff lawyer. 

Proposed pipeline liability regime steps in the right direction, but leaves too much wiggle room for polluters.

At this very moment, Canada’s liability regime is woefully inadequate when it comes to making sure that polluters pay in the event of a pipeline rupture or oil spill. That means that Canadian taxpayers like you would shoulder an inappropriate degree of the risk in the event of a serious pipeline accident, like Enbridge’s Kalamazoo River spill in Michigan.

According to recent estimates, that spill — the largest in United States history — cost more than $1.2 billion to clean-up. By comparison, Canada’s strictest liability law would have only made Enbridge automatically liable for a paltry $40 million, while providing the company with an opportunity to wriggle off the hook for any further costs. 

Now consider that a number of controversial new pipeline projects have been proposed in Canada, each bigger than the last. Between Enbridge’s Northern Gateway (525,000 barrels per day), Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion (890,000 barrels per day) and TransCanada’s Energy East (1.1 million barrels per day), thousands of Canadians may find pipeline infrastructure — locking us into a fossil-fuel economy for another generation — snaking right through their backyards.

Oil in Tankers Not Our Responsibility, Says Kinder Morgan, Recalling Exxon Valdez Lessons

exxon valdez cleanup provides lessons for kinder morgan

This is a guest post by Glen Thompson. It originally appeared on Abbotsford Today the Watershed Sentinel and is republished here with permission.

Once the oil leaves the dock, Kinder Morgan holds no obligation or responsibility, even 10 metres out – that’s the carrier’s liability.”

At the last two information events in Chilliwack, Kinder Morgan brought a large team of professionals and specialized aids to cover an exhaustive range of issues. Resembling a Royal Commission, everything concerning the proposed pipeline was in the tow of a Subject Matter Expert and neatly secured in a rolling briefcase.

The first audience was the full Board of the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) and the second, an invited group of government regulatory officials, community leaders and representatives of major environmental organizations. Audiences with a formidable amount of assembled oversight.

The new pipeline, it seems, is as complicated as the first mission to the moon, with a robust 15,000 page draft plan, guiding a small army of civil engineers, scientists, and project leads. It took no less than nine expert presenters with technical analysts standing by, to present an hour and a half project overview to the FVRD Board.
 

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Sitting two rows deep, the project leads extolled advanced science and gleaned wisdom distilled from forensic analysis of past catastrophes. The presentation team successfully stick-handled their way through the Boards member’s queries; air quality, the depth of the pipeline in deep rooted agricultural crops, financial compensation capacity and riparian protection.

Taxpayers Still on the Hook for Oil Spill on B.C. Coast, Despite Federal Claims of "Polluter Pays" Regime

oil tanker in the burrard inlet in vancouver british columbia

A new report reviewing Canada’s tanker spill prevention and response regime released by a government-appointed expert panel has reignited concerns over the impact increased tanker traffic and a potential oil spill could have on the British Columbia coast. 

The 66-page review of Canada’s oil-spill response system makes a total of 45 recommendations to government and industry, including annual spill training exercises, geographically based risk assessments, improved emergency response times and increased funding for Environment Canada, Transport Canada and the coast guard.

The panel also recommends the removal of a current $161 million liability cap — a change the federal government is describing as a move to a ‘polluter pay’ scenario.

Yet Karen Wristen, executive director of the Living Oceans Society, said the report’s recommendations do not hold industry accountable in the event of an oil spill:

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