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BC Nature Challenges Federal Cabinet Decision to approve Northern Gateway

July 14, 2014

North Vancouver, BC - The Federation of BC Naturalists (BC Nature) filed a lawsuit today challenging the federal Cabinet’s decision to approve the Northern Gateway project. The lawsuit asks the Federal Court of Appeal for leave to commence an application declaring the Cabinet’s June 17, 2014 decision invalid.

Read BC Nature's media release.

ELC to Represent BC Nature in Court Challenge to Northern Gateway Approval

June 17, 2014

Victoria, BC - BC Nature announced today that the ELC will file a lawsuit on their behalf challenging the federal Cabinet decision to approve the Northern Gateway project. The lawsuit will highlight serious deficiencies and flaws in the December 19, 2013 Joint Review Panel report, which Cabinet relied upon to make their decision.

"Filing this lawsuit will ensure that the Federal Court of Appeal is able to hear and consider arguments relating to all of the various flaws and deficiencies associated with Northern Gateway approval process," says ELC Executive Director, Chris Tollefson.

Click here to read BC Nature's media release.

Tighter Rules Needed for Underground Injection of Fracking Wastewater

June 16, 2014

Victoria, BC - First Nations in Northeast BC have many concerns about plans to dramatically expand fracking operations in their territories to feed the LNG industry. Thousands of new fracking wells will seriously impact wildlife, air quality and the Nations’ traditional way of life. Now a new University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre study done for the Fort Nelson First Nation highlights the risks raised by current fracking wastewater disposal practices.

Wastewater from fracking operations can contain radioactive materials, toxic metals like lead and arsenic, carcinogens like benzene and hexavalent chromium, chemicals used in fracking and high concentrations of salts. Yet this wastewater is being injected into old gas wells without proper monitoring or regulation.

The age and integrity of these disposal wells is a major concern. A new study indicates that 73% of injected waste water in the Fort Nelson First Nation territory has gone into wells over forty years old. Province-wide, 60% of the wastewater has gone into such old wells. For example, near the Fort Nelson First Nation reserve a single well built in 1968 has been injected with a volume of waste water equal to 24 9/11 World Trade Center Towers.

Yet because of weak laws, we don’t really know what toxins were in the waste water, or how much may have leaked into ground water or surface water. Monitoring of the toxins in the wastewater is not currently required -- and the law fails to require monitoring of subsurface conditions near such wells.

Reviewing “best practice” standards from other countries and expert authorities, the ELC study recommends that BC laws on fracking wastewater disposal wells be reformed to require:

  • Fracking wastewater disposal wells meet US EPA standards for hazardous waste wells;
  • Reduce, re-use and recycle wastewater more efficiently;
  • Rigorous hydrogeologic study and risk assessment before siting a disposal well;
  • Monitor disposal wells throughout their lifetime and long after their closure to ensure that they are not leaking;
  • Baseline studies of ground and surface water before disposal well operation begins; and
  • Adequate emergency response plans.
The report suggests that an appropriate way for BC to ensure robust monitoring and compliance efforts for disposal wells would be to give First Nations adequate resources to conduct baseline testing; provide monitoring and compliance services; and develop adequate emergency response plans.

Read the ELC study, prepared by Savannah Carr-Wilson and supervised by Legal Director Calvin Sandborn.

BC's White Paper on Societies Act opens the door to misuse of court time and society's resources

October 15, 2014

Victoria, BC - The ELC filed a submission today asking the provincial government to rethink part of the draft legislation in their White Paper on the Societies Act. Focussed on a section that may encourage SLAPP-like law suits against societies, the ELC submission states the potential negative effects on the public interest are far worse than the problem the provision seeks to address. READ THE SUBMISSION

Government should disclose Mount Polley documents: ELC asks BC Information Commissioner to investigate

October 7, 2014

Victoria, BC - The ELC asked BC’s Information & Privacy Commissioner today to investigate the provincial government’s refusal to release documents related to the Mount Polley tailings dam collapse. More... READ THE SUBMISSION

Law Reform: Government Should Disclose Fish Farm Diseases

June 12, 2014

Victoria, BC - Disease outbreaks at fish farms may spread and threaten wild salmon stock. Although the government knows where outbreaks occur, they fail to report the information until it is too late to be useful to independent scientists. Working for the Wuikinuvx First Nation, ELC student Sam Harrison wrote a report documenting how government needs to publish detailed, meaningful and timely information on diseases that happen on BC fish farms. More...

BC's New Water Sustainability Act

May 20, 2014

Victoria, BC - BC recently gave third and final reading to a new Water Sustainability Act, a long-awaited overhaul of the water management and allocation regime in BC, which ELC Program Director Deborah Curran says is the "best piece of environmental legislation introduced in BC in more than a decade," although the devil of environmental protection will be in the details of regulation. See her summary of the new Water Sustainability Act here.


March 14, 2014

The ELC was in the Supreme Court of British Columbia this week for our first ever Judicial Review. More... Update: Read the Oral Reasons for Judgment of The Honourable Mr. Justice MacKenzie

BC Nature brings lawsuit to halt Northern Gateway approval

January 17, 2014

Less than a month after the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel (JRP)’s report was published, the first lawsuits aimed at stopping the proposed project were filed today. On behalf of BC Nature (the Federation of British Columbia Naturalists), the ELC filed an application for judicial review in the Federal Court of Appeal, asking that the JRP’s report be declared invalid and that the approval process be halted until its court challenge is heard. More...

Protecting School Children from Natural Gas Wells and Pipelines

December 12, 2013

The ELC and lawyer Tim Thielmann asked Premier Clark today to protect children who go to school in areas surrounded by gas wells and pipelines. Acting for the Peace Environment and Safety Trustees Society (PESTS), the ELC asked the province to tighten the rules for natural gas facilities near public schools. More...

Regulating Exposure to Radon Gas in BC Homes

January 3, 2014

Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada after smoking – causing an estimated 2000 lung cancer deaths a year. An odourless, colourless radioactive gas formed by the natural decay of uranium deposits in the earth, it is ubiquitous throughout Canada and can leak through unprotected building foundations to reach concentrations that are hazardous to the health of building occupants. Simple remediation measures can usually address the risk. However, people are often simply unaware of the presence of the gas in their basements and homes. More...

Seaweed Harvesting: A New Industry that Needs Better Regulation

December 5, 2013

As global demand for seaweed expands, a new commercial seaweed harvesting industry is emerging on Vancouver Island. An ELC report by student Piet Brusse warns that this harvest could have serious impacts on fisheries and sensitive coastal ecosystems if government oversight does not improve. More...

Commissioner Says Government Must do a Better Job of Warning the Public

December 2, 2013

BC's Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham released her report this week in response to the ELC's June 2012 request on behalf of the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) to investigate whether public bodies are following the laws intended to warn the public about health, safety and environment hazards. More...

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