ELC Associates assess BC’s new Environmental Assessment Act

Environmental assessments will be different and have the potential to be better under BC’s new Environmental Assessment Act (EA Act), according to lawyer and ELC Fellow Karen Campbell.

Karen provided her assessment of the new EA Act as part of an afternoon ELC Associates event that brought together public interest lawyers from across the province on a snowy day to discuss what’s working in environmental law.

She said that while there are still gaps, the new EA Act has a number of great advances. For example:

  1. Progress on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples;
  2. Opportunities for Indigenous-led assessments;
  3. Limits on discretion in terms of process;
  4. Limits on discretion in terms of outcomes; and
  5. A host of new and old tools that can be used.  

Now a lawyer at Ng Ariss Fong, Karen was part of the provincial Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee struck to re-envision BC’s Environmental Assessment Act. The Committee was administered jointly with the First Nations Energy and Mining Councils, so Karen says there was real role for Indigenous leadership in the legislative development process. The law passed Nov 2018 and it will take approximately a year to develop the regulations before it comes into effect.

Karen Campbell’s Feb 11 presentation

The afternoon included a number of engaging presentations:

  • ELC Fellow Lisa Fong (Ng Ariss Fong) and lawyer Kegan Pepper-Smith (Ecojustice), who spoke about the crude oil reference case.
  • Keegan Pepper-Smith also outlined the recent Ecojustice win regarding their salmon farm litigation.
  • Alex Etchell (BC Freshwater Legacy Initiative) spoke about the Nicola Valley watershed planning process.
  • Chris Harvey, QC (Mackenzie Fujisawa LLP) talked about the advancement of public access issues arising from the decision in the Douglas Lake Cattle Company litigation.
  • Devon Page (Ecojustice) and Jessica Clogg (West Coast Environmental Law) joined Deborah Curran (ELC) for a discussion about what’s working in environmental law.