Victory for Canadian Environmental Law: Bilcon Loses Motion

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.

As a US-based company, Bilcon had the option of seeking a review of the Canadian decision via the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which they pursued. In March 2015, a NAFTA Tribunal determined that Bilcon had been treated unfairly and should be compensated by Canada for losses associated with their proposed project. In June 2015, the government of Canada applied to the Federal Court of Canada to have the NAFTA tribunal decision set aside. ECELAW is an intervenor in this case, championing the perspective of those most directly affected by the efforts of Bilcon to develop a coastal quarry and marine terminal in their community.

Like preparing for a cold day outside, a case like this has many layers; most of those come in the form of pre-hearing motions. With one of those motions, Bilcon asked the court to stay the proceedings (i.e. put everything on hold) until after the NAFTA Tribunal determined the amount of compensation that Bilcon should receive from Canada. ECELAW is very happy to announce that after many months and an appeal of the initial decision, Bilcon lost their motion. We hoped that this meant the dates for the full Federal court hearing would soon be set. This is a small victory in a very long process, but it is a victory nonetheless. We received word late last week that Bilcon will appeal the decision on the stay motion to a higher level of court; and so we work through another layer. Working with our colleagues at the Sierra Club of Canada Foundation and our lawyers at Ecojustice, we are committed to seeing this case through no matter how long it takes.

ECELAW’s ability to intervene in this matter depends on donations from supporters like you. Pease donate today.

In Solidarity,

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Lisa Mitchell

Executive Director & Senior Lawyer

East Coast Environmental Law

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For more information:

Good News for Canada’s Environmental Assessment Law: No Cash Advance for Bilcon

We're Heading to Court to Protect Canada's Environmental Laws

Ecojustice Blog Post on Bilcon Case