≡ Menu

Updating our website

Dear faithful readers,

We are updating the framework of our website to make it faster, cleaner, and more mobile friendly. During the process, you may notice some layout changes, but the excellent content that you are used to will all remain available. For WordPress theme aficionados, we are moving from Thesis 1.8 to Thesis 2.1.
Thank you for your patience. We do apologize for any inconvenience, and will do what we can to keep it short.

{ 0 comments }

U.S. Pentagon: Climate Change an Immediate Security Threat

The U.S. Pentagon’s latest report, the 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, calls climate change an immediate threat to national security.

The forward, by U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, sets the tone: “Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic diseases, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.”

[click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

Appeal Court Rejects Pollution Exclusion in Oil Overflow

In O’Byrne et al. v. Farmers’ Mutual Insurance Company (Lindsay), 2014 ONCA 543, the Ontario Court of Appeal has forced an insurer to pay for a fuel oil cleanup after a spill, despite a pollution exclusion clause.

[click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

Fossil fuel divestment catching on?

Is the tide turning on fossil fuel divestment? Climate Week featured promises, by some big mainstream investors, to start divesting from fossil fuels. Notable announcements included the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which was built on the Standard Oil fortune. Europe has more than nine fossil fuel divestment campaigns underway. And now Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, has called for investors to report the long-term environmental impacts of their decisions along with their financial results. He warned that fossil fuel companies cannot burn all the reserves on their existing books if the world is to avoid catastrophic climate change. [click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

New Biodiversity Treaty in effect this week

Fair sharing of biodiversity: The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization, under the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), enters into force this week. The Protocol is an international environmental agreement intended to ensure that those, who share access to genetic resources and associated traditional and aboriginal knowledge, benefit fairly from their use. 51 countries have ratified the Protocol to date.

Canada, with its large aboriginal population, has neither signed nor ratified this Protocol. [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Quebec Court Recognizes Precautionary Principle for Belugas

Quebec Superior Court Justice Claudine Roy granted a temporary injunction on September 23, 2014, stopping Energy East Pipeline Ltd. and TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. from conducting exploratory work in the St. Lawrence River near Cacouna, QC until October 15, after a critical period for beluga whale reproduction has passed. The injunction was sought by environmental groups including the David Suzuki Foundation.

The purpose of the TransCanada project is to study a portion of the sea-bed under the St. Lawrence River to determine where a marine terminal should be built to allow the export of Alberta tar sands oil. According to the Court’s decision, Quebec’s Environment Minister, David Heurtel, was “unreasonable” in authorizing the project because he did not have sufficient information concerning potential impacts on the Beluga whale.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Powerful reports by environmental commissioners

Congratulations to both the federal and provincial environmental commissioners, who continue to strenuously remind our governments how far they fall short on environmental stewardship, and who both issued powerful reports this week. Bees, Algonquin Park, “Chemical Alley”, urban sprawl, climate change, weak environmental assessment, inadequate commitment to environmental monitoring in the oil sands: there is no shortage of environmental crises that require urgent responses. [click to continue…]

{ 2 comments }

Can municipal bylaw stop Hydro One Transformer Station?

Can the Municipality of Clarington, Ontario, by bylaw, force Hydro One to submit a groundwater study in order to build a $296 million transformer station, that has been directed to be built by the Ontario Power Authority, and approved by the Ministry of the Environment? [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Ontario Targets for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The Ontario government has released its Climate Change Update 2014 to coincide with Climate Week that was held in New York City from September 21-28. Climate Week involved mass gatherings to demonstrate the public demand for action on climate change, as well as roundtables highlighting the latest strategies to reduce our carbon footprint, all leading up to the United Nations Climate Summit held September 23. The purpose of the summit was to gather public leaders to catalyze action on the ground and to create political will and momentum for further action leading up to the next U.N. conference on climate change to be held in Paris in 2015. The goal for Paris 2015 is a global agreement that limits the world to a less than 2-degree Celsius rise in global temperature.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Ontario Anti-SLAPP law soon after all?

Yesterday,  we noted that Environment Minister Glen Murray’s mandate letter includes no reference to a new anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation) law: http://envirolaw.com/environment-minister-murrays-mandate-letter/, even though SLAPPs are often directed against environmental protection groups.  A faithful reader has helpfully pointed out that, thankfully, that is because bringing the anti-SLAPP law back to the Legislature is mandated to the Attorney General: [click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

Environment Minister Murray’s mandate letter

Every Cabinet minister gets his or her marching orders from the Premier or Prime Minister. These “mandates” used to be top secret, but Ontario now makes them public. Here is the mandate letter for the new Minister of Environment and Climate Change, with our emphasis added.

On environmental legislation, note the commitment to reintroducing the Great Lakes Protection Act, that new waste reduction legislation has been downgraded to an “objective”, and that there is no reference at all to the Anti-SLAPP law that died on the order paper when the NDP forced the May election, or to any climate change legislation: [click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

Port Authority biased in approving coal port?

This month, Ecojustice filed an application for judicial review of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s decision to permit a coal transfer facility. They claim that the Port Authority failed to consider some environmental effects, including climate change, and that the decision of the Port and its officers and staff was affected by bias.

Bias is a serious allegation. As our Supreme Court said in Roberts v. R, 2003 SCC 45: “public confidence in our legal system is rooted in the fundamental belief that those who adjudicate in law must always do so without bias or prejudice and must be perceived to do so.” Without fair, impartial decision-makers, our legal system cannot function. Perhaps the Port Authority should not have permitted the coal facility, but was it “biased”?

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Urban Forests Across Canada Valued at $51B

TD Bank issued a report on September 24, 2014, providing an economic valuation of urban forests in the greater Halifax, Montreal and Vancouver areas, estimating that these forests contain more than 100 million trees which carry an estimated worth of $51 billion (Halifax: $11.5B; Montreal: $4.5B; Vancouver: $35B). TD claims that for each dollar spent on maintenance of these trees, between $1.88 and $12.70 in benefits are realized each year, depending on the city.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Herbicide Spray Drift a “Normal” Farm Practice?

Organic farmers in Nova Scotia filed a lawsuit against a neighbouring farm for damages allegedly caused by a herbicide which drifted onto their property. In particular, the plaintiffs claimed that the herbicide caused damage to their crops, the miscarriage of four horses, and personal injury.

The defendant farmer claimed immunity under section 10(1) of Nova Scotia’s Farm Practices Act which protects farmers from any civil action in “nuisance, negligence or otherwise, for any odour, noise, dust, vibration, light, smoke or other disturbance resulting from an agricultural operation.” The action was stayed pending a ruling from the Farm Practices Board as to whether the activities in question constituted “normal farm practice.”

[click to continue…]

{ 2 comments }

Can the threat of personal liability stop fluoridation?

The excessively broad risk of personal liability for municipal councillors and staff in the Ontario Safe Drinking Water Act was supposed to improve public health and safety, but could it do the opposite, by frightening individuals into making poor public policy decisions? Opponents of fluoridation have started to threaten councillors with personal liability for fluoridated water, in the hope of changing municipal policy on water treatment.  The province created this problem, and they should fix it. [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }