In a first for Nova Scotia, Harrietsfield resident Marlene Brown is laying charges on April 26th, 2017 as a private prosecutor under the Environment Act.
Brown and other Harrietsfield residents have suffered from contaminated drinking water for more than a decade. Despite Ministerial Orders against the companies and individuals responsible for the contamination, nothing has been done to remediate the site
“I’m frustrated by the lack of action on part of the companies who are supposed to clean up this site,” says Brown. “And I’m frustrated by the lack of action on part of the government to enforce environmental laws and to enforce their own Ministerial Orders against those who are responsible for this suffering.”
“Many of us have had uranium, lead and arsenic in the water coming from our taps, for years now, and all we seem to get are hollow promises,” continues Brown. “No one should have to beg for clean drinking water in Nova Scotia.”
Brown has teamed up with Halifax-based East Coast Environmental Law (ECELAW) and Nova Scotia environmental lawyer Jamie Simpson to bring attention to the contamination.
Nova Scotians are often left in the lurch when it comes to industrial pollution and other environmental degradation impacting their communities. Without a legal right to a healthy environment, community members find their concerns falling on deaf ears.
Marking Earth Day, the Environmental Rights Working Group (ERWG) is proposing a non-partisan Bill of Environmental Rights (EBR) for Nova Scotia to give everyone in the province legal access to demand a healthy environment. Similar laws exist in other provinces, but this is the first time a proposed EBR recognizes the unique concerns of traditionally marginalized or vulnerable residents.
Residents from Boat Harbour, Harrietsfield, Lincolnville, Sipekne’katik and Shelburne will gather to share their stories and describe how a Bill of Environmental Rights would have made a difference to their communities, and how it can change the future.
The proposed PEI Water Act has been a long time coming for citizens on Prince Edward Island. A province that draws all of its water supply from ground water sources and supports a significant agricultural industry needs to be fully aware of the state of their water and the potential impacts today’s choices will have on future Islanders. The government has followed a robust public engagement plan to develop the draft Act, culminating in the release of a full draft version of Act, with supporting information pieces. Citizens on PEI have stepped up to offer their time and expertise to review and comment on the draft. Unfortunately, after providing an excellent consultation process the PEI government is now rushing the final phase of consultation with less than a month for comments and only four in-person sessions.
The wheels of justice turn slowly and the wheels of government even slower. The community of Harrietsfield is still waiting for the polluter to pay and for our government to stand by the law and ensure they receive clean and safe water.
The 7 year legal battle hit a major milestone this month with the release of the Decision of NS Supreme Court Justice Gabriel dismissing an appeal of a Ministerial Order by the former operator of the construction and demolition recycling company (RDM) site. This is the third time the matter has been in the courts. The former construction and demolition recycling site is contaminated after years of stockpiling unrecyclable material such as carpet, gyproc and asphalt, open to the weather creating toxic runoff into local watercourses. Additionally, 120 000 tons of waste were buried on the property and the leachate from this waste has been making its way into the groundwater, leaving local residents with well water that is neither pleasant or safe.
It was cold in Nova Scotia this morning, -25 degrees with the windchill, as my 12 year old bundled herself up to go skiing. “So many layers...” she complained, “...it takes more time to get ready than it will to ski!”. Her comments reminded me of another process that is multi-layered and takes a great deal of time to prepare -- the case of an American company trying to circumvent Canadian environmental law.
As many of you know a US-based company, operating under the name Bilcon, proposed a large coastal quarry and marine terminal in the small community of Sandy Cove located on Digby Neck, Nova Scotia, over 10 years ago. Canadian law, at the time, required the project to undergo federal and provincial environmental impact assessments. The project was quite contentious with a majority of the community and many other Nova Scotians opposed the proposal to blast basalt in the coastal environment and ship it to New Jersey on large vessels. An independent review panel was appointed to review the project proposal, consult with the public, and make a recommendation to government. The review panel completed their work in 2007 and recommended that the project not proceed primarily owing to significant adverse effects that would impact the core values of the community. Government agreed with the recommendation and the project did not proceed.
31 January 2017 -- As the rather tumultuous first month of 2017 winds down there is something to celebrate. The newly appointed National Energy Board (NEB) Hearing Panel to review the proposed Energy East pipeline announced that they would re-start the process. This means that all decisions made by the first hearing panel are void including:
Determination that the Energy East and Eastern Mainline applications are complete;
Decision to review the Energy East and Eastern Mainline applications via a single hearing;
List of Participants and any subsequent individual rulings on participation;
Lists of Issues and factors to be included in the environmental assessments under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012; and
There is a homemade sign on the door between our house and the garage that reads, “Don’t forget your instrument”. The sign was crafted and placed by our 11-year old after she arrived at school on band day without her flute.
The sign seems to work so I have thought about putting up a few signs around the provincial legislature. “Don’t forget your commitments in the Natural Resources Strategy”. “Don’t forget that climate change is real”. “Don’t forget that species are going extinct”. “Don’t forget that everyone needs clean water to drink”. “Don’t forget the future”.
We are official interveners in the federal case to stop the company Bilcon from collecting 100 million US dollars from Canadian taxpayers. This case has its roots in the small community of Sandy Cove on Digby Neck, where the community and the government refused to allow the blasting of the coastline for extraction and export of basalt for construction projects in New Jersey. The case began in our province, but its reach extends to the very heart of environmental law in Canada. It threatens the rights of Canadians to decide how and who exploits our natural resources. We are working hard to keep Canadian environmental lawCanadian. There is more about our role in this federal court case at: www.ecelaw.ca/item/150-good-news-for-canada-s-environmental-assessment-law-no-cash-advance-for-bilcon.html
Federal Court of Canada rejects Bilcon’s application to stay proceedings, denying the Delaware company an early pay day.
ECELAW Presents Concerns to the National Energy Board on the Controversial Energy East Pipeline
Nova Scotia is a beautiful province to live in. With its pristine shorelines, undisturbed old-growth forest, and rolling hills, our province truly places natural splendour on display.
Many communities in this province are fortunate enough to live in an environment that is healthy – the air is clean, they have ready access to clean water, and the land is free from harmful levels of contamination.
But some communities are less fortunate.
For example, effluent from a pulp mill waste treatment plant in Boat Harbour has polluted the local environment. Members of the Pictou Landing First Nation have described feeling “powerless” and unable to change the situation, which impacts them daily. And for more than a decade, residents of Harrietsfield have voiced concerns about the risks a local construction and demolition recycling facility poses to their groundwater. Many in the community have expressed frustration at being left in the dark when it comes to ongoing pollution and government’s plans to address it.
These experiences demonstrate why legal recognition of environmental rights — including the human right to a healthy environment — is of paramount importance.
For instance, individuals should have rights to access information and to participate in environmental decisions that could impact their lives. They should have tools available to ask for government intervention to enforce or strengthen laws or permits when necessary to protect their health or environment. And when all else fails they should have access to the courts.
This is why the introduction of Bill 178, Environmental Bill of Rights, in the Nova Scotia legislature last week is such a positive development. If made law, it would give communities stronger tools to protect their health and environment and fight for environmental justice.
In addition to providing legal recognition that all Nova Scotians have a right to live in a healthful environment, it would establish many important procedural protections such as a right to request that government review a law, regulation, or permit that fails to protect the environment or human health. It would also create a new independent oversight body in Nova Scotia in the form of an environmental commissioner.
Legal recognition of environmental rights can have many benefits. According to the Conference Board of Canada rankings, industrialized countries that recognize the right to a healthy environment have better environmental records than Canada and outperform us economically. Improved environmental performance can in turn help reduce preventable deaths and illnesses caused by exposure to harmful contaminants.
And in providing Nova Scotians strong, enforceable tools to hold government and polluters to account, Bill 178 could trigger improvements to other environmental laws, regulations, and policies.
This not to say that Bill 178 is perfect. It also has room for improvement.
At present it provides for too much Ministerial discretion and its access to justice objectives are hindered by Nova Scotia’s lack of an independent environmental tribunal to hear appeals regarding environmental permitting decisions. Most importantly, it does not recognize or address issues of environmental justice or racism — that is, the disproportionate burden of environmental hazards borne by racialized, Indigenous, and low-income communities in this province. That’s a serious oversight.
Nonetheless, Bill 178 presents an opportunity for all political parties to work together to make the province a leader when it comes to protecting every Nova Scotian’s environmental rights.
Environmental rights are a fundamental component of environmental law in the 21st Century, and something we hope to see Nova Scotians and politicians of all stripes embrace.
Scores of Canadians have already mobilized in support of environmental rights. More than 130 municipalities across the country, representing more than a third of Canada’s population, have adopted declarations supporting the human right to healthy environment. Halifax and four other communities in Nova Scotia are among them.
The recognition of our right to a healthy environment is not a partisan issue. Public opinion polling indicates that more than 85 per cent of Canadians surveyed agree people should have the right to a healthy environment.
It not hard to see why: Our very survival depends on clean air, water, and soil. As such, environmental rights are human rights — necessary for life, liberty, and human dignity.
Now it’s up to Nova Scotia to make that the law.
Kaitlyn Mitchell is the national program director at Ecojustice, an environmental law charity that is building the case for a better earth.
Aaron Ward is the executive director of East Coast Environmental Law, a non-profit dedicated to strengthening environmental law in Atlantic Canada.
Photo credit: Getty Images
For too long have marginalized communities in the Maritime Provinces been forced to live under structural conditions that allow for environmental racism -- the disproportionate location of polluting industries and other environmental hazards near communities of colour. While this term may continue to be unfamiliar to some, many have become aware of this issue through the work of Dr. Ingrid Waldron and the ENRICH (Environmental Noxiousness, Racial Inequities and Community Health) Project.
On March 22nd, 2016, I joined Dr. Waldron (Assistant Professor at Dalhousie University and Director of the ENRICH Project) in providing a lecture at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University, titled Race, Place, & the Law: A Socio-Legal Analysis of Environmental Racism in Nova Scotia. The lecture was hosted by the Environmental Law Students’ Society and was well attended by students, faculty, and members of the public. The significant public interest and engagement is incredibly encouraging and an important first step in naming and addressing this issue.
Today is World Water Day: a day to reflect on the fact that millions of people around the world cannot safely drink their water – both around the world and around the corner.
This World Water Day we’d like to highlight the community of Harrietsfield, Nova Scotia. For over ten years, residents of Harrietsfield have been plagued by well water contaminated with cadmium, boron, uranium, lead, arsenic, and more. The water stinks, rots away fixtures, and is unusuable for household applications.
The fact that rural residents in Nova Scotia have uranium in their well water may not be news. In fact, 4% of all well water in Nova Scotia contains uranium above the levels considered safe to drink.
But what if the uranium in your well water increases by 500%?
What if you find the water you are drinking not only contains uranium, but boron, lead, arsenic, cadmium and manganese, to name a few?
And what if it turns out your neighbor is a C&D (construction & demolition) recycling site that collected and stockpiled waste material for years without cover or containment and what if contaminants from that waste were leaching into your well water?
Halifax – November 12, 2015 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
East Coast Environmental Law (ECELAW), Atlantic Canada’s only environmental law charity, has released a report analyzing the new regulatory framework for aquaculture in Nova Scotia. New Regulations released on October 26, 2015, are an improvement from the previous regulatory framework but fail to live up to the Provincial Government’s commitment to implement the recommendations of an independent review panel.
The Doelle-Lahey Panel, commissioned by the Provincial Government, consulted a wide range of stakeholders including the aquaculture industry and coastal communities. In its final Report the Panel recommended a fundamental overhaul of aquaculture regulation in Nova Scotia, in order to address serious concerns regarding openness, transparency, Ministerial discretion, and a lack of social licence for industry to operate in this province. The Doelle-Lahey Report did not recommend a moratorium on open-net finfish aquaculture, but the many groups pursuing that goal agreed to put aside their continued calls for such a moratorium if the Panel recommendations were fully implemented.
The Provincial Government has implemented some of the Doelle-Lahey recommendations, including the introduction of an independent review board, public hearings for certain licence applications, third party auditing, and management plans. That said, some recommendations that go to the core concerns of openness, transparency and reducing discretion have not been implemented, including provisions concerning the proactive release of information to the public, the designation of certain at-risk areas as unsuitable for aquaculture development, and the ability for the public to request the revocation of a licence from repeat-offenders.
ECELAW urges the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture to take the steps necessary to fully implement the recommendations of the Doelle-Lahey Panel. A failure to take all recommendations seriously threatens the ability for finfish aquaculture to operate with social licence from the people of Nova Scotia, and may result in an atmosphere where public calls for a permanent moratorium are stronger than ever.
Read ECELAW’s analysis of the new regulatory framework by downloading the attachment, below.
Aaron Ward, Executive Director, ECELAW
[email protected] | (902) 495-9111 | twitter: @ecelaw
Check out ECELAW's new report on the province's legal obligations with respect to mainland moose and other species at risk in Nova Scotia. Click here to read the report.
ECELAW is pleased to release two reports on Environmental Rights in the Maritimes. The first is an introduction to environmental rights. It explains the concept and benefit of environmental rights. The second report is a summary of three workshops on environmental rights, held in each of the Maritime provinces, along with strategies to move torwards the legal recognition of environmental rights in the Maritimes.
Read the reports here:
ECELAW's executive director Jamie Simpson was honoured to speak at the David Suzuki Foundation's events in St. John's NL and Halifax NS. Jamie was asked to deliver a speech on environmental rights and to introduce Dr. Suzuki. You can read Jamie's speech here. Both events drew some 1,000 people to hear Dr. Suzuki make his compelling case for Canadians' right to a healthy environment.
The DSF is crossing the country with the message that it is past time for Canada to recognize Canadians' right to clean water, air, and land. Visit www.bluedot.ca to learn more, and to add your voice.
ECELAW pleased to work with three outstanding students who participating in the 2014 Environmental Law Placement course -- check out their research on environmental rights, endangered species, and cosmetic pesticide by-laws.
Do you have questions about the recently released draft report from the Independent Aquaculture Regulatory Review for Nova Scotia Panel? ECELAW has prepared three background reports that may help you. ECELAW staff members are available to answer questions about the reports and assist groups with their review of the Panel Report.
On April 23, 2013 ECELAW released Aquaculture Regulation in Nova Scotia: Overview of the Regulatory Framework and Considerations for Regulatory Reform. This Report provides an outline of the aquaculture industry in Nova Scotia and an overview of the current federal and provincial regulatory framework. The Report identifies seven specific areas of consideration in the context of strengthening provincial regulation to make the industry more environmentally sustainable. This Report does not provide an in-depth analysis of aquaculture regulation in Nova Scotia; rather it provides an overview to serve as a foundation for that analysis, discussion and future regulatory reform.
On May 1, 2013 the former Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture announced a review of the regulatory framework for aquaculture in Nova Scotia. The Minister appointed a two-person independent panel to carry out an extensive public consultation process and information gathering exercise leading to a proposal for an innovative aquaculture regulatory framework.
On April 25, 2014 ECELAW completed a Comparative Analysis of Five Aquaculture Regulatory Frameworks in Canada. This Report was commissioned by the Panel to gain insight into the regulatory approaches to aquaculture in four Canadian jurisdictions: New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia. The Report compares key elements of those regulatory frameworks to the current approach in Nova Scotia. Ultimately the Report strives to identify regulatory provisions and approaches from each of the jurisdictions that may serve the Panel as they seek to develop a world-class regulatory framework for aquaculture in Nova Scotia.
On June 10, 2014 ECELAW completed a Comparative Analysis of Aquaculture Regulatory Frameworks in Maine and Nova Scotia. This Report was also commissioned by the Panel to gain insight into the regulatory approaches to aquaculture in the state of Maine and to compare key elements of the Maine regulatory framework to the current approach in Nova Scotia.
On July 4, 2014 the Doelle-Lahey Panel (Independent Aquaculture Regulatory Review for Nova Scotia) released their draft Report for public comments. Comments will be received until July 24, 2014 and community engagement sessions will be held in the following locations:
ECELAW staff members are available to assist groups seeking to comment on the draft Panel Report.
Please contact us at: [email protected]
Ever wondered how and to what extent Nova Scotia's Environment Act is enforced? Or what information is publicly available to assess environmental law enforcement in Nova Scotia?
Check out ECELAW's new report "Failure to Enforce: Time for transparent and effective environmental enforcement". If you have an environmental enforcement story to share, get in touch and tell us.
ECELAW is pleased to release a guide to the legal aspects of wetland conservation in the Halifax Regional Municipality. The guide includes information about Nova Scotia's Environment Act, Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation, Nova Scotia's Wetland Conservation Policy, and HRM land-use by-laws and policies that impact wetland conservation. The guide walks readers through the steps required to determine whether a development on or near a wetland is lawful.
On May 1st, 2013 Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister, Sterling Belliveau, announced a plan to develop a new regulatory framework for the aquaculture industry in the province. This plan includes an extensive public consultation and information gathering process carried out by an independent two-person panel made up of Dalhousie law professors Meinhard Doelle and Bill Lahey. ECELAW has been participating in the public consultation and is available to assist other groups and organizations seeking to participate.
At the end of the process the Panel will submit to government an Aquaculture Regulatory Framework that will cover three themes: (1) sustainable-development; (2) social well-being; and (3) economic opportunity. The Panel has been given 12 to 18 months to complete consultations and research, and to report its findings. As one of the first steps, the Panel has been hosting community meetings across Nova Scotia to outline the process and identify issues and public concerns.
The mission and vision of ECELAW includes the development and fair application of innovative environmental laws for Atlantic Canadians. Providing input to the proposed regulatory framework for aquaculture in Nova Scotia fits with the ECELAW mandate. To that end, we will endeavor to participate in the process and provide support to other groups and organizations seeking to participate.
ECELAW has attended several community meetings to:
ECELAW will continue to engage in the regulatory review process as it progresses over the next year. ECELAW is seeking to input directly to the process through the proposed Round Table discussions, and to lend our support to community groups and to the broader environmental community by providing legal information and tools that might enhance their capacity to participate in the review process. For more information on the Aquaculture Regulatory Review, click here.
Please contact ECELAW if you or an environmental or community-based group you are part of is seeking legal information or support to assist your participation in the regulatory review process. In addition, feel free to be in touch with ECELAW if you have questions concerning the current regulation of aquaculture in Canada, the regulatory review process, or environmental law in general.
On May 1, 2013, ECELAW released its report entitled, Aquaculture Regulation in Nova Scotia: Overview of the Regulatory Framework and Considerations for Regulatory Reform. The report, prepared by Lisa J. Mitchell, highlights the strong need for appropriate regulation of the aquaculture industry to ensure that it operates sustainably, especially where the government supports industry growth. This Report provides an outline of the industry in Nova Scotia and an overview of the current federal and provincial regulatory framework. The Report identifies seven specific areas of consideration in the context of strengthening provincial regulation to make the industry more environmentally sustainable. This Report does not provide an in-depth analysis of aquaculture regulation in Nova Scotia; rather it provides an overview to serve as a foundation for that analysis, discussion and future regulatory reform.
ECELAW wishes to thank the Sage Environmental Program for funding this important Report.
To listen to an interview with environmental lawyer Lisa Mitchell regarding ECELAW's report on aquaculture regulation, please see the following link: http://habitatradio.ca/.
ECELAW’s new series addresses a key gap – the lack of published literature focused on environmental law issues specific to Atlantic Canada. The Series will consider papers on any aspect of environmental law in the Atlantic Provinces. In particular students are encouraged to submit research papers, but the editors also hope to provide a venue for legal scholars and practicing lawyers to publish research articles or opinion pieces in order to build up a body of material focusing on the East Coast.
In Provincial Coastal Management in Nova Scotia – A Legislative Review (OPS #1), author Jamie-Lynn Kraft looks at how the Province might use its existing legislative tools to manage the coast.
In Fish Pathogen and Pest Treatment Regulations (OPS #2), Zeynep Husrevoglu addresses the current regulatory uncertainty around the treatment of sea lice in salmon farming, and the need to balance stakeholder interestswhile also meeting Canada’s domestic and international legal obligations.
The third paper, Using Strategic Environmental Assessments to Guide Oil and Gas Exploration Decisions in the Beaufort Sea: Lessons Learned from Atlantic Canada (OPS #3), is a joint publication with the Canadian Institute of Resources Law. Authors Meinhard Doelle, Nigel Bankes, and Louie Porta examine how Strategic Environmental Assessments have been used on the East Coast to guide oil and gas decision-making, and their future application in the Arctic.
We value your feedback on this new venture, and welcome suggestions from potential future contributors.
David Boyd, leading environmental lawyer, launches new book, The Right to a Healthy Environment, in Halifax, November 5
East Coast Environmental Law, together with the Environmental Law Students Society and the Marine & Environmental Law Institute, Schulich School of Law, is pleased to host a presentation by David Boyd at 7 pm, Monday November 5, in Room 105, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University.
Canada has abundant natural wealth -- beautiful landscapes, vast forests, and thousands of rivers and lakes. The land defines Canadians as a people, yet the country has one of the worst environmental records in the industrialized world. Building on his previous book, The Environmental Rights Revolution (2012), David R. Boyd, one of Canada's leading environmental lawyers, describes how recognizing the constitutional right to a healthy environment could have a transformative impact, empowering citizens, holding governments and industry accountable, and improving Canada's green record. David’s new book, The Right to a Healthy Environment, makes the case that constitutional recognition of environmental rights and responsibilities would both reflect and reinforce Canadian values, much as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms confirmed and enhanced our commitment to equality.
David Boyd’s book tour across Canada is supported by the David Suzuki Foundation and Ecojustice.
David R. Boyd is one of Canada's leading environmental lawyers, an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University, and an adviser on environmental policy to governments in Canada and Sweden. He is also an international expert on human rights and the environment, assisting countries from Iceland to Tunisia in securing constitutional protection for the right to a healthy environment.
East Coast Environmental Law (ECELAW) and Environmental Law Students Society, Schulich School of Law, are pleased to present a talk by Deborah Curran, Hakai Professor in Environmental Law and Sustainability, University of Victoria Faculty of Law, on "Green Real Estate". This event takes place between 12 and 1 pm, in Rom 104, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University, 6061 University Avenue.
Deborah is a co-founder of Smart Growth B.C. and has worked for over 15 years with local government and community organizations to develop legal strategies for smart growth and sustainability.
PS Deborah is also presenting on "The Long History of Green Belts in BC" on October 4, a presentation sponsored by Our HRM Alliance (www.ourhrmalliance.ca)
East Coast Environmental Law is now a registered charity with the CRA. “We are excited about what this will mean for our ability to strengthen environmental law and provide environmental law resources throughout the region,” says Lesley Griffiths, ECELAW’s Executive Director. As a charity, ECELAW is now able to grant charitable donation receipts for donations given to their important work. Learn more about how to support ECELAW's work.
Another helpful resource provided by Ecojustice www.ecojustice.ca.The Ecojustice Environmental Hansard is an easy-to-use website that collects,organizes and distills federal political dialogue on our environment. With entries searchable by date, Member of Parliament, topic or text content, the Ecojustice Environmental Hansard makes Parliamentary debate accessible and transparent to the Canadian public, researchers and environmental community. The website is non-partisan and a useful tool for anyone interested in sustainability and the environment. Visit thesite at www.envirohansard.ca.
The 2012 federal budget bill, released in April, includes a proposed new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA 2012). Meinhard Doelle, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University, has prepared a preliminary list of the key differences between CEAA 2003 and CEAA 2012 to help inform those interested in CEAA about some of the key changes contemplated, and to encourage a discussion of their implications for environmental assessment in Canada.
Today is Black Out Speak Out day and We arejoining hundreds of organizations North America-wide and many thousands of Canadians and speaking out for nature, democracy and human rights. Please join us by visiting http://blackoutspeakout.ca/ , signing the petition, and joining the campaign through email, Facebook and Twitter (#blackoutspeakout)
ECELAW (East Coast Environmental Law) www.ecelaw.ca and NSEN are partnering to begin a discussion regarding an NS Environmental Bill of Rights on May 8th, 7 pm, at Veith House, 3115 Veith Street, Halifax.
Nova Scotia would benefit from legislation that does the following:
90 countries have embraced the right to a healthy environment, and afford it the same legal protection as other core human rights like the right to liberty, security and equality. The time seems opportune to push for similar environmental protections in Nova Scotia given the recent legislative reviews and the announcement that Ecojustice has started a major environmental rights campaign.
PLEASE RSVP by May 1st by e-mailing Janelle: [email protected] or calling 902-454-6846 if you are able to attend in person or by conference call.
Thirty participants took part in ECELAW’s workshop on Environmental Assessment on November 26. Presenters included Greg Wilson, PEI Environment, Labour and Justice; Carolyn Peach Brown, UPEI; Laura Spurway, Peter Ghiz Law, and Peter Mushkat and Meinhard Doelle, ECELAW.
Find the companion publication, Environmental Assessment: Legal Toolkit for Prince Edward Island and to see the powerpoint presentations go to Our Services/Current Workshops/Workshop Archives on the website.
A special thanks to funder and partner, the Law Foundation of Prince Edward Island, to Laura Spurway for her work on the publication, and to Shannon Mader and Island Nature Trust for organizing logistics and publicizing the workshop. We hope to see you all next year!
East Coast Environmental Law is now a registered charity with the CRA. “We are excited about what this will mean for our ability to strengthen environmental law and provide environmental law resources throughout the region,” says Lesley Griffiths, ECELAW’s Executive Director. As a charity, ECELAW is now able to grant charitable donation receipts for donations given to their important work. For more information, click on ‘Support Us’ at the top of the home page.
The Nova Scotia Environment Act is up for a 5 year review and as part of the consultation process, ECELAW has provided comments to the Department. Our submission addresses some procedural issues related to the Review and closes with proposals for amendment of the Act related to strategic environmental assessment, environmental rights and access to justice.
Many of the proposals for amendment raised in the Department of Environment's discussion paper appear to be enhancements or improvements to the Act and are welcomed. However, some are vague and until specific language is proposed it is difficult to provide comment.
For more information on the Review, visit the NSE website at:
We hope to see you next year!
Ecojustice recently defended a small community group against a “SLAPP Suit” (Strategic Legal Action Against Public Participation) brought by a developer. The group voiced concerns about a large fill site proposed for its community. The group was concerned that the fill would erode into the stream and damage the sensitive fish habitat. It voiced these concerns in letters to politicians and at a town council meeting. The developer sued the group and two citizens (neighbours) for speaking out, claiming they had, amongst other things, defamed him. The trial judge dismissed the developer’s action summarily decision and ruled that the Society’s public statements about what could happen to the environment were not defamatory statements, but were “opinions on a matter of public interest.” As stated on Ecojustice’s website “[T]he decision confirms the public’s legal right to speak up when the environment is put in jeopardy. However, most people in the same situation are denied this justice. The cost to defend against these law suits can be prohibitively high, even when just seeking a quick dismissal.” The developer has appealed.
by DEBORAH CARVER
Published: 2011-07-14 The Chronicle Herald, Halifax, Nova Scotia
During the last month, we have heard the objections of communities on Digby Neck to the development of large salmon farms in the waters of St. Mary's Bay. They have now appealed to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court to challenge the fisheries and aquaculture minister's decision to permit the farms. Also recently, there has been discussion of the Nova Scotia government's partnership with Newfoundland and Labrador to land the southern end of an electric transmission line, carrying power from the Lower Churchill hydro project, in Cape Breton. In the Annapolis Valley, the siting of a large number of wind turbines is running into complaints from cottage owners and from the military at CFB Cornwallis.
Each of these projects has been or is currently the subject of a process called environmental assessment (EA). This process examines the potential impacts of a project on the environment and predicts whether the impacts are unacceptable (in which case the project will not go ahead) or can be accommodated (in which case the project will proceed). Both the federal and provincial governments are required by legislation to use EA before approving new projects.
In each of these projects — salmon farming, a hydro transmission corridor, and wind turbines — the federal government is involved in the EA, despite their location within Nova Scotia. This is a result of our Canadian division of constitutional powers which means that some activities are under federal jurisdiction and require federal permission, even though the activity takes place within one province. Sometimes both levels of government are involved and decide whether they will co-operate or conduct the EA separately.
A curious aspect of these projects is that until a private-sector company made a specific proposal, having in each case chosen a location that suited its business interests, there was no opportunity for communities to be involved in making choices about their location and whether they are compatible with traditional occupations and the local environment. Although the EA process does allow opportunity for public consultation, it is limited in almost all EAs to submission of written comments.
More curious is that the province has not analyzed, with public input, the broad panoply of environmental, social and economic issues that surround these projects. The public has not been engaged in a discussion around how these industries can best contribute to a sustainable Nova Scotia. Should the province develop a sector of our economy that is based on ocean cage aquaculture, given the potential environmental risks and displacement of the traditional lobster fishery? Although wind generation is part of the necessary mix of renewable energy that we need in Nova Scotia, where can we best locate the projects?
It is equally unfair to the private-sector proponents as to the public that there has not been a dialogue at this level. The lack of discussion means that the proponent is the stalking horse, a target of public displeasure.
We have another approach available to us: strategic environmental assessment (SEA). This process is used globally to take a high-level planning approach rather than a project-by-project one to examining environmental impacts. However, SEA has been used only once in Nova Scotia: to analyze the opportunities for tidal power development in the Bay of Fundy.
In that case, a round table of stakeholders, after hearing from communities, scientists and industry, recommended that pilot tidal energy projects proceed. As a result, four turbines will be placed in the Minas Passage over the next year and their performance will be analyzed before next steps are taken.
The SEA process would be an equally effective one for thorough consideration of a variety of other new resource-based industries — wind energy, aquaculture, intensive agriculture, shale gas exploitation and coastal development. In each of these, there is a major juggling act required among new and traditional occupations; community self-determination and provincial leadership; short- and long-term economic benefit for the province; and the potential harm to wildlife, diversity and water quality. SEA could help address these big-picture issues before more projects are proposed and approved — and involve the public in the discussion.
Nova Scotians deserve to be asked the big questions and to be closely involved in how we accommodate the challenges presented in moving our economy forward while protecting the environment and the values and ways of life so precious to us.
Deborah Carver is executive director of East Coast Environmental Law Association. Environmental assessment, including SEA, is the subject of workshops in Halifax, July 20; Yarmouth, July 21-22; and Tatamagouche, July 25. For more information, visit www.ecelaw.ca.
ECELAW will be bringing you monthly updates on developments in environmental law. Further detail on any new cases or legislation can be found in our information library.
Case Law: Federal
David Suzuki Foundation v. Canada (Minister of Fisheries & Oceans)
Federal Court rebukes DFO for “reprehensible, scandalous or improper conduct”
In December 2010, Ecojustice won a precedent setting case that confirmed the federal government’s responsibility to protect everything that makes habitat healthy for whales, from pollution-free water to plentiful amounts of the salmon they need for food.
Ecojustice represented a consortium of environmental groups that brought two judicial review applications seeking to overturn DFO’s protection statement and protection orders for the Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whales. Ecojustice argued that the intention of the Species At Risk Act (“SARA”) was that once a species was designated as “endangered species” or a “threatened species”, DFO was required to protect the species’ critical habitat of species by law — not by government discretion. DFO argued that it should be allowed to rely on discretionary provisions. The Federal Court Judge found that DFO had acted unlawfully in limiting the application and scope of the protection orders made pursuant to s. 58(4) of SARA as DFO was required to protect the orcas’ critical habitat.
DFO has appealed one aspect of the ruling – which has not yet been decided. However, the Federal Court recently issued its judgment with respect to costs for the judicial review hearing and awarded the environmental groups represented by Ecojustice $80,000 in costs on a solicitor-client basis. Russell, J. found that the government “displayed reprehensible, scandalous or improper conduct that is deserving of reproof or rebuke” in the manner it conducted itself throughout the process of the judicial review applications.
Case Law: Nova Scotia
Parker Mountain Aggregates Limited v. Nova Scotia (Minister of Environment) et al., 2011 NSSC 134
Judicial Review under s. 138 Environment Act – Minister’s decision to suspend quarry approval upheld
Parker Mountail Aggregates Limited (“PMAL”) appealed the Minister of Environment’s decision to issue temporary approvals for the quarry and to then suspend the approval by stop-work order on October 30, 2009. Robertson, J. upheld the Minister’s decision finding that there was no breach of procedural fairness and the Minister had the discretion to issue temporary permits and stop-work orders given the duty to take action to manage and protect the environment.
PMAL received approval for the quarry in 1999 for 10 years but it was conditional on PMAL submitting a “legal property boundary survey outlining the area of the site… within two calendar months from the date of the issuance of the approval”. PMAL never submitted the survey and when they started preparing for blasting in 2009 neighbours complained that the site for the quarry had changed since the 1999 approval – which required the consent of adjacent neighbours. PMAL argued that its 1999 approval did not specify a particular active area for the quarry but NSE argued that it did because the consent of landowners within 800m was required and obtained. Since the survey was never submitted and PMAL was now changing its active site to a location nearer to the public road and neighbours, the NSE suspended its approval and required an amended application rather than a renewal. The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia upheld the Minister’s decision.
Legislation: Nova Scotia
The Nova Scotia Legislature is sitting this month and considering the following Bills of interest:
The East Coast Environmental Law (ECELAW) on line resource library has been redesigned to make searching for environmental cases, legislation and publications much easier. Residents of PEI, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia can now directly access relevant legal materials for their province from the home page of the ECELAW website at www.ecelaw.ca. Visitors to the main Information Library page can also browse by province, by various environmental themes, alphabetically or by creating their own advanced search. We encourage users to let us know if there are materials that should be added to the Library by email to [email protected] ECELAW’s environmental law library is a unique resource containing current environmental law information that is of interest to all Atlantic Canadians.
Our thanks to the Law Foundation of PEI for making these improvements possible.
In November 2010, ECELAW successfully presented workshops in Charlottetown and Moncton on the subject of Environmental Law for Land and Sea. Companion publications for each province have also been produced.
We were fortunate to have 35 participants in Charlottetown and 14 in Moncton, all of whom were highly engaged with our subject. ECELAW's website now includes all documents from these workshops. See: Our Resources / Current Workshops for power point presentations and the Information Library for deeper research needs.
A special thanks to our funders and partners, The Law Foundations of PEI and New Brunswick, Island Nature Trust and the New Brunswick Environmental Law Society. Also thanks to all the presenters who worked hard to develop and deliver the content of the workshop and others for assistance on the publications.
Presenters, writers and key participants included:
Thanks also to the publication writers:
Our Advisory Group in PEI included Jacinta Gallant, Jackie Waddell and Gary Schneider.
We hope to see you next year!
Ecojustice will continue to defend the environment, one case at a time
By TAMARA LORINCZ and DEVON PAGE
The Chronicle Herald, Halifax: Published: 2010-10-27
Last week, the largest fine in Canadian history was issued against a corporation for an environmental offence.
Oilsands giant Syncrude Ltd. was fined $3.2 million by the Provincial Court of Alberta for failing to prevent the death of 1,600 migratory waterfowl that landed on the company’s toxic tailings pond in Fort McMurray in 2008.
It was Ecojustice Canada that initially launched the private prosecution against Syncrude, which pushed the provincial and federal governments to finally act and led to this environmental victory.
Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund) is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month as the country’s leading non-profit that uses the law to defend Canadians’ right to a clean and healthy natural environment ( www.ecojustice.ca).
In 1990, Harvard-educated lawyer Stewart Elgie co-founded Sierra Legal with a board of passionate young lawyers.
From an office in Vancouver, they offered free legal services to the environmental community.
Within a month of opening, the environmental lawyers were taking logging companies to court to protect old-growth forests and safeguard endangered species in British Columbia.
Today, Ecojustice has offices in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto, with an expert staff of lawyers and scientists.
It also has an environmental legal clinic at the University of Ottawa and a partnership with the Halifax-based East Coast Environmental Law Association ( www.ecelaw.ca).
For two decades, Ecojustice has represented the public interest and won precedent-setting cases at all levels of court. It has also shaped public policy and initiated law reform across Canada.
For example, in 2001, Elgie argued before the Supreme Court of Canada that the precautionary principle should be used to allow the Town of Hudson to pass a municipal pesticide ban. The court agreed and enshrined this principle in Canadian law in its pioneering decision, Spraytech v. Hudson.
Now, there are 156 municipalities around the country that have relied on the Hudson decision and have passed bylaws banning the use of cosmetic and ornamental pesticides.
This year, Nova Scotia joined Quebec and Ontario and proclaimed a provincewide Non-essential Pesticide Control Act.
Over the past decade, Ecojustice has produced national report cards on drinking water and sewage that have exposed the country’s lax regulations.
In its most recent report, Seeking Water Justice, Ecojustice found that there are currently 1,776 drinking water advisories and is calling for binding federal water standards.
In major mining legal battles this past year, Ecojustice lawyers won cases that forced mining companies in Canada to report their toxic output on the National Pollutant Release Inventory, to adequately consult stakeholders, and to broadly scope projects in environmental assessments.
Ecojustice has achieved significant success for species at risk.
In two recent, ground-breaking court challenges, Ecojustice forced the federal government to identify critical habitat in the recovery programs for the greater sage-grouse, an endangered prairie bird, and Nooksack dace, a threatened pacific minnow.
These legal wins have implications for all of Canada’s 579 imperilled species, as the federal government will have to identify and protect adequate habitat for their survival.
For Nova Scotia’s threatened species and forests, Ecojustice supports the recommendations for law reform, for improved compliance and for new legislation outlined in the report A Natural Balance: Towards a New Natural Resource Strategy for Nova Scotia.
Ecojustice further calls on the government of Nova Scotia to follow the lead of Ontario and develop an Environmental Bill of Rights for citizens.
In her report A Natural Balance, Constance Glube, chair of the steering committee and former Chief Justice of Nova Scotia, stated that "the status quo is not an option" for our natural resources.
Ecojustice agrees and will continue to fight in the courts to protect the environment one case at a time.
Tamara Lorincz is a board member and Devon Page is executive director of Ecojustice Canada.
by RALPH SURETTE, The Chronicle Herald, Halifax NS
The devastation is astounding in a place where the once-cold waters of the North Atlantic used to break up hurricanes into post-tropical depressions by the time they made landfall. Towns cut off, great chasms in roadways, the army and navy to the rescue — and people struggling to make sense of it all.
There’s a message in Igor’s assault on Newfoundland. Something to pick up our attention that has wandered since hurricane Juan smacked Halifax in 2003, since Katrina destroyed New Orleans in 2005 and even as behemoths of unprecedented enormousness keep either roaring by unpredictably or taking random potshots at the east coast of North America.
The point is that we are vulnerable to "100-year storms" more or less every year now — Newfoundland to Category 1 storms, the Maritimes to Category 2s, farther south to worse, with the ultimate nightmare being a direct hit by a monster on low-lying New York City.
The question is, what are we doing about it? "Is Lady Luck our policy?" asks an article I picked up on the Ecology Action Centre website. The author is Jennifer Graham, EAC’s coastal co-ordinator, who’s on a campaign to raise awareness about our coastal vulnerabilities and to prod action, with the message that it’s going to be cheaper to address this now than later.
Not that awareness is lacking. The rising seas; the uncontrolled development that goes on in some counties of Nova Scotia over wetlands, cobblestone beaches and sand dunes; the vulnerable roads and other coastal structures, including in low-lying areas behind dykes; the exposure of entire towns like Truro, or of entire infrastructures like the Trans-Canada Highway and the main rail line at the top of the Bay of Fundy — all this is well-enough known, officially and otherwise.
The problem, rather, is with the action part. In Nova Scotia, there’s a great, clunking bureaucratic thing theoretically moving towards a coastal strategy. But it involves some 15 federal and provincial departments and agencies, plus the municipalities — all with their different laws and points of view, some in conflict with each other. The whole thing lacks urgency, political direction, and even a mission statement to protect coastal areas, says Graham. Its scope is too limited and the fact that it’s co-ordinated out of the small and cloutless fisheries department is an indication of its low priority, she says.
Some bits and pieces are happening. Halifax Regional Municipality has laid down setbacks for development — 30 metres back from the high water mark and 2.5 metres above it. Graham says even if the province cut through the red tape and imposed this province-wide, or if other municipalities did it on their own, "it would be a great first step."
There’s been federal money trickling through for some pilot projects, mostly marshland reclamation — the Geological Survey of Canada having estimated that damage to shorelines and property was less during hurricane Juan where salt marshes and barrier beaches were intact. At Pointe-du-Chêne, N.B. near Shediac, they’ve actually hauled some houses to higher ground. Meanwhile, the Insurance Bureau of Canada has also been funding projects.
Some municipalities other than HRM have also been working at it. In fact, Graham has been on a round of presentations to municipalities — talking up points like building standards, community emergency plans, construction setbacks, hazard mapping, sewers, dykes and others.
Although municipalities are on the front lines, they’re the ones with the least money and jurisdiction. Nevertheless, having the municipalities primed will make "the process go farther faster when it does get going," she says.
As the TV images flow in from Newfoundland showing the effort to construct temporary bridges and roads, the disquieting question is this: How much of this should actually be rebuilt, at least as it was before, if there an even chance that it’s going to be whacked again?
In New Orleans, it was the fifth anniversary of Katrina. It was a celebration of rebuilding, but the joy was ambiguous (all the more so as the news was dominated by the BP oil spill). There too, the question hovers: what about the next hit?
It’s a question everywhere there’s coast. In Nova Scotia, the least we can do is get this bureaucratic process moving faster.
Ralph Surette is a veteran freelance journalist living in Yarmouth County.
Environmental Groups call on Newfoundland and Canada not to Approve Seismic Blasting
As a growing number of individuals and organizations call for a moratorium on testing and drilling for oil in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Atlantic Canadian environmental groups are calling on the Newfoundland and Canadian governments not to allow an imminent seismic blasting survey.
Plans are underway to proceed with seismic blasting off Western Newfoundland in the habitat of the endangered blue whale and other sensitive species. An application from Corridor Resources to conduct a geohazard survey is currently before the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board-http://www.cnlopb.nl.ca/env_active.shtml
“Seismic surveys have negative impacts on marine life, but more crucial in this case, is that they are an early step in the oil and gas development cycle. As more and more organizations say no to oil and gas in the Gulf or raise concerns, we respectfully ask that the Government of Newfoundland not issue the requested permit to Corridor Resources,” says Mark Butler of Nova Scotia’s Ecology Action Centre.
“Important environmental, legal and jurisdictional issues are triggered by the proposed impacts and location of the blasting, so we’re also asking the federal government to get off the side-lines and protect our Gulf”, Butler added.
A seismic survey involves the blasting of very loud sounds toward the ocean floor with the reflected signal providing oil companies with a picture of the geology up to several kilometers below the ocean floor. The problem is that between the seismic vessel and the ocean floor lies a lot of water which is home to fish, mammals and turtles all of which are extremely sensitive to sound.
“We share the concerns raised by DFO in their response to the Corridor environmental assessment about the impact of the survey on the endangered blue whale” says Julie Huntington of the Newfoundland Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. “The seismic survey will be taking place in the migration corridor of the blue whales as they leave the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the fall and has the potential to disrupt their migration and distress the whales.”
The blue whales that enter the Gulf of St. Lawrence spend most of their time feeding along the North Shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in areas like the Mingan Islands. These are Quebec waters. When the whales leave the Gulf in the fall they pass through Newfoundland and Nova Scotia waters on their way back to the Atlantic Ocean. Thus oil and gas activity in Newfoundland waters could have consequences for other provinces.
“The Gulf of St. Lawrence is a national treasure. The provinces surrounding the Gulf should be working together to conserve its natural diversity and beauty--all provinces, the federal government and First Nations should be involved in decisions that could affect shared marine resources", comments Gretchen Fitzgerald, Director of the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Seismic blasting can also have impacts on marine invertebrates and fish. The fishing industry in Quebec and Newfoundland has raised concerns about the impact of the Corridor survey on redfish, cod, lobster and snow crab.
Canadians watched with horror as millions of gallons of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico and the entire machinery of the oil industry and United States government tried repeatedly but failed to stop the flow.
The Gulf of St. Lawrence is 6 times smaller than the Gulf of Mexico. The area where the oil company wants to drill is 400 to 500 metres deep – depths that present many of the same challenges facing emergency responders in the Gulf. This would make it a deepwater well and hence the risks of drilling and the probability of catastrophic spill increase.If the Gulf of Mexico spill is superimposed on the Gulf of St. Lawrence the spill, depending on where it is placed, extends to all five provinces.(See end of attached release or http://www.ifitweremyhome.com/disasters/bp).
For more information contact:
Mark Butler-Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre, [email protected]
Julie Huntington- Julie Huntington- CPAWS- NL 709 726-5800
Gretchen Fitzgerald, Director, Atlantic Chapter, Sierra Club of Canada-902-444-3113
In 2007, our provincial government gave Nova Scotians something to be proud of — an ambitious and unique piece of environmental legislation, the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act (EGSPA). Ambitious because the government set a clear, overarching goal of being one of the cleanest and most sustainable environments by 2020. Unique because EGSPA enshrined 21 detailed targets in legislation that established the steps necessary to achieve the main goal, with timelines for keeping the government on track.
The purpose of enacting EGSPA was to raise the level of government commitment to the environmental targets beyond mere policy statements, which can be easily dismissed. The reason for enshrining targets in legislation grew from one of Nova Scotia’s environmental success stories, solid waste management, where the government took its legislated targets seriously and reached its goal.
By setting goals for environmental prosperity rather than concrete obligations, the government asked Nova Scotians to have faith because it provided no legal mechanism in EGSPA to enforce its targets. Changes to targets can be expected. However, when the government misses, disregards or moves timelines for its targets late in the process and without public consultation, it undermines EGSPA and our faith in the government’s commitment to sustainable prosperity.
We have now seen the government decide to ignore its targets on several occasions without amending EGSPA and without consulting the Round Table on Environmental Sustainability, a multi-stakeholder committee set up to oversee the act’s implementation. As examples: The Energuide labelling goal for all new residential dwelling units by 2008 was ignored; and as recently announced, the target for reducing mercury emissions by 70 per cent by 2010 to pre-2001 levels has been significantly delayed.
The EGSPA targets don’t come out of thin air — they are often set according to the province’s national and international environmental commitments. This is the case for the mercury emission target, which relates to our government’s commitment to the Canadawide standards for mercury emissions, established in 2000 by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME). The mercury target is also linked to the federal government’s efforts to reduce mercury emissions through regional and international initiatives, such as the North American Commission for Environmental Co-operation’s Regional Action Plan on Mercury.
When the government links its targets to national and international commitments and ignores them, what does this say about the government’s ability to meet targets that have no external gauges?
It is no excuse that EGSPA was enacted under another government, as the goals were endorsed by all three parties. There were no changes made to the goals during the legislative committee process for EGSPA. Accordingly, every political party in Nova Scotia should be committed to the targets and held accountable.
EGSPA has the potential to be a very powerful guide on Nova Scotia’s road to sustainable prosperity. Where there is adherence to the targets, as in the case of nitrogen oxide emissions which were reduced by 20 per cent by 2009 relative to 2000 levels, we can all celebrate our government’s initiative. But in order for EGSPA to have any value, the commitment to sustainable prosperity must be matched with a commitment to due process and transparency. The government must meet the targets or provide clear rationale for moving the targets based on public input.
Two mechanisms for input include seeking advice from the multi-stakeholder round table and amendment to the act. Alternatively, establishment of an environmental auditor is an effective and efficient way of holding governments accountable.
In 2012, EGSPA is up for a five-year review which could result in amendment or additions to its environmental and economic goals. The creation of the office of environmental auditor could signal the seriousness of the commitment to the EGSPA objectives. In that way, Nova Scotians can have faith that our government is leading us towards sustainable prosperity.
Deborah Carver, Executive Director, East Coast Environmental Law Association.
Chronicle Herald, Halifax, August 15, 2010
ECELAW's website and online library now include all documents from the Summer 2010 workshop series Who Owns the Coast. See: Our Resources / Current Workshops for power point presentations; Our Resources / Pubications for the East Coast Environmental Law latest publication; and Our Resources / Information Library for deeper research needs.
We were fortunate to have over 100 participants between the three Nova Scotia locations. A special thanks to all the presenters who worked hard to develop and deliver the content of the workshop.
We hope to see you next year!
It is easy to agree that the coastline is a precious asset to everyone living in Nova Scotia. For some, the coast is a source of livelihood and economic opportunity; for others it offers recreation and aesthetic enjoyment.
However, the complex ecology of the coast, coupled with the diversity of laws that govern it, can lead to the assumption that coastal issues are confusing and beyond the reach of the average member of the public. This is far from the truth.
Everyone can play a role in protecting the coastline of Nova Scotia for its own sake and that of future generations.
Consultations are now underway to assist the provincial government to develop a strategy for the coast.
The process began with the release of the 2009 State of Nova Scotia’s Coast Report. Among other topics, the report highlights the many levels of government that are responsible for coastal management.
Currently, there are over 45 pieces of legislation at the international, federal, provincial and municipal levels that deal with the management of Nova Scotia’s coast.
Many sustainable initiatives stem from local action. Coastal protection is no exception. Municipalities can play a central role in coastal governance.
The Nova Scotia Municipal Government Act gives municipalities authority over land use. Despite this power, conflicts may arise between municipal land-use bylaws and provincial acts and regulations.
This potential conflict can be explored by looking at Nova Scotia beaches. The Beaches Act is provincial legislation that regulates activity on certain designated beaches.
However, with the permission of the minister of the environment, development such as the building of a house and other activities, including removal of material, may still occur on a designated beach.
Could a municipality step in and declare a conservation zone on a designated beach and improve the level of protection?
In 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the power of the municipality of Hudson, Que., to pass a bylaw banning cosmetic pesticides.
This marked the beginning of a wave of similar municipal bylaws which in Nova Scotia has now resulted in the passage of provincial legislation. Municipalities took the lead on pesticides in response to community concern for public health and the environment.
In the Hudson case, the supreme court recognized that when it comes to protecting the environment, municipalities are well placed to take precautionary measures to ensure a sustainable future.
Where there are serious, irreversible environmental threats, like the destruction of environmentally sensitive shorelines, municipalities may be able to step in to protect them.
Nova Scotia’s Municipal Government Act requires provincial departments that wish to carry out any development to consider the planning documents of the municipality. A municipality’s control over development is limited: a municipality cannot normally ban all development in an area.
However, a bylaw can prohibit development within a specified distance of a watercourse, which includes the ocean.
And if a proposed development is on unstable, marshy land or land subject to flooding, then a bylaw can absolutely prohibit development.
The Nova Scotia Environment Act also provides that a bylaw that imposes a restriction for the protection of the environment in excess of that required by the act is valid.
These provisions suggest that a municipal bylaw that takes strong protective measures for the environment and prohibits development on a protected beach is within municipal authority.
The policy tool provided to municipalities for land-use planning is called a Municipal Planning Strategy. The MPS is an excellent mechanism for municipalities to protect their coastal regions.
Municipalities with an MPS include the Region of Queens Municipality, Municipality of the County of Kings, Halifax Regional Municipality and Cape Breton Regional Municipality. Some of these have used their MPS to adopt principles around coastal protection.
Concerned Nova Scotians can be proactive in protecting their coast. Encouraging community leadership in sustainable coastal management by working with councillors and planning departments is one way of ensuring a healthy coast for the future.
East Coast Environmental Law Association will present a series of workshops that discuss this and other topics related to environmental law and the coast of Nova Scotia.
They will take place in Sydney on July 19, Halifax on July 22 and Liverpool on July 23. For information see www.ecelaw.ca or contact the ECELAW workshop coordinator at 902-494-8041 or [email protected]
Cape Breton Post July 9 2010
BY DEBORAH CARVER AND ZEYNEP HUSREVOGLU
Yarmouth and Halifax, NS:
A network of environmental and community organizations are objecting to the hasty adoption of a flawed Fur Industry Act for Nova Scotia. Bill 53 was introduced for First Reading on Thursday April 29th and was passed by the House of Assembly on its Third Reading on Thursday May 6th. Although the Department of Agriculture worked closely with the Nova Scotia Mink Breeders Association for over a year to develop this Bill, members of the public, including members of the affected communities were not consulted.
"It is ironic that a law intended to address community concerns has been pushed through without due consultation with those communities or environmental experts," says Steve Hawboldt of the Clean Annapolis River Project. "The Act has value but there are a number of changes that would have taken seriously the need to ensure environmental protection and addressed community concerns.."
Community groups rallied last year when toxic 'blue-green' algae (cyanobacteria) blooms occurred once again in the Wentworth / Carleton River Watershed, near Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. A March 2009 Nova Scotia Environment study of nine lakes in the affected watershed included the recommendation that large suspect contributors of nutrients to the lakes (including mink farms and a mink food processing facility) should be further investigated and where appropriate and possible, discharges reduced or eliminated.
"The intensity of mink farming has soared in the last few years, in fact there were 1.7 million mink processed in Nova Scotia last year and mink in our province consume 7 tractor trailer loads of feed every day. This is big business with the ability to do significant environmental damage," says Gretchen Fitzgerald, Director, Sierra Club Atlantic. "The industry is growing and if we are to ensure that Nova Scotia's wetlands, rivers and lakes are protected from the impacts of this growth we must have legislation that reflects that goal. Instead, we have the Fur Industry Act, a law that leaves all decisions related to the environmental management of the industry in the hands of its greatest promoter, the Department of Agriculture. There is no oversight by other government departments such as Nova Scotia Environment or by members of the public."
The organizations were disturbed by the comments made in the House by the Minister of Agriculture, John MacDonell, when the Bill was presented for Second Reading debate. The Honorable Mr. MacDonell thanked Clean Annapolis River Project, Tusket River Environmental Protection Association, Yarmouth County Environmental Justice Committee, Sierra Club Atlantic, Ecology Action Centre, East Coast Environmental Law Association and other stakeholders for their contribution as the legislation was drafted.
"We were not asked to make a contribution to the development of the Fur Industry Act," says Deborah Carver, Executive Director, East Coast Environmental Law Association. "It's accurate that we met with two representatives of the Department of Agriculture in April 2010, but we were told that the Bill was too far along in the process to present any details."
Members of the organizations submitted comments to the Law Amendments Committee that can be found at www.gov.ns.ca/LEGISLATURE/committees/61_2_LACSubmissions/20100507.pdf
The passage of the Bill was so swift that it took the organizations by surprise and they did not attend the Committee's deliberations on May 5.
The organizations concerned are calling for the Department of Agriculture to provide full and meaningful consultation during the next stage of regulatory development to ensure high environmental standards and public scrutiny. They also are asking the Department to conduct a full cost accounting of the fur industry before further measures are taken to promote more growth in the sector.
In their haste to pass Bill 53 before summer break the NDP government forgot the value of democratic process and passed a law that was developed in a vacuum.
For more information, please contact:
Gretchen Fitzgerald, Sierra Club Atlantic:
Jocelyne Rankin, Ecology Action Centre:
[email protected] 902-442-5046
Deborah Carver, East Coast Environmental Law:
[email protected] 902-489-7997
Steve Hawboldt, Clean Annapolis River Project:
Randy Cleveland, Tusket River Environmental Protection Association:
Shelley Wilson, Yarmouth County Environmental Justice Committee:
[email protected] 902-742-9727