Environmental Law Centre

National pollutant data finally released, sort of

Following the recent release of new mining pollution data — compelled by a lawsuit by MiningWatch Canada & Great Lakes United — the Environmental Law Centre's Laura Bowman posts on the "sorry state of access to pollution data in Canada":

The question remains, does anyone even know the environmental impact from spills and routine releases from industry and municipalities in Canada? Is it even possible for anyone to find out if there are reporting and access to information barriers?

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Accountability & Transparency in Managing Alberta's Environment

Accountability and transparency are essential principles of democracy, but when it comes to managing Alberta's environment they can sometimes be in short supply. The Environmental Law Centre's Jason Unger discusses accountability in the regulatory approval process, the lack of a legal remedy to address broken promises, and proposes two legislative changes to address the issue.

The word “accountable”, meaning “responsible; answerable” (Black’s Law dictionary 9th ed.), evokes the idea that we must pay the piper for unmet promises…

 

…It seems, however, that accountability for environmental impacts and decisions related to them are becoming increasingly elusive.

The Pembina Institute's Nathan Lemphers goes on a quest in search of emergency preparedness plans in case of a oil sands tailings lake breach, and finds only secrecy and a lack of transparency.

Communities downstream of the oil sands are already skeptical about whether the Government of Alberta and oil sands operators are diligently managing the impacts and risks associated with oil sands development…

…A lack of transparency around tailings management is only adding to the skepticism and concerns.

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Senate Passes Budget Bill Weakening Canadian Environmental Assessment

Despite the opposition of public interest groups, including AEN members Ecojustice, Sierra Club Canada, and the Environmental Law Centre, and a recommendation from the Senate Finance Committee, the Senate voted to pass the budget bill (C-9) including provisions to weaken the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The Environmental Law Centre's Adam Driedzic weighs in on the impacts on the environmental assessment process and the "exclusion of the public from decision-making on matters of public interest."

You don’t have to be an environmentalist to be concerned with this one.  For the second straight year, the federal budget bill passed with Trojan horse provisions unrelated to the budget.   The perennial target is the federal environmental assessment regime, but the real victim is the public.

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Senate Finance Committee Protects the Environment

Edmonton, AB – In the past few months, the Environmental Law Centre (ELC) has been actively involved in campaigning against amendments that could render the environmental assessment process ineffectual, needlessly exposing the environment, the Canadian public, and future generations to unknown and potentially irreversible risks by providing the Minister of Environment with discretion to reduce the scope of activities for which an assessment is conducted. Read more about Senate Finance Committee Protects the Environment

ELC on Environmental Bill of Rights and proposed Wastewater Regulations

The Environmental Law Centre posts on a couple of recent developments. Adam Driedzic posts on Bill C-469: An Act to establish a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights, which recently passed second reading in the House of Commons.

Laura Bowman comments on proposed wastewater regulations under the Fisheries Act.

There is no assurance from regulators that public health and the environment will be adequately protected while municipalities take 10-30 years to comply.  These timelines are not consistent with those ordered by the courts on the rare occasions when municipalities have been charged and convicted.

Read more about ELC on Environmental Bill of Rights and proposed Wastewater Regulations>

Bill C-311 the Climate Change Accountability Act: action or aspiration?

The Environmental Law Centre's Laura Bowman writes that the Climate Change Accountability Act suffers from some of the same "problematic legal issues" that led to the failure of the earlier Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act. In the case of Friends of the Earth v. Canada, (2008 FC 1183, (T.D.) appeal dismissed 2009 FCA 297) a Federal Court found that the earlier act, unenforceable and, in Bowman's words, "too general in nature to have the true force of law". Bowman argues that:

Parliamentarians and activists need to be bolder in addressing climate change, by putting forward specific measures instead of emission targets without any means of achieving them.

And that:

Bill C-311, riding on a wave of political apathy, represents a failure to take risks on real measures.  Targets are the ends, but legislators need to be prepared to provide the means, and soon.

 

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