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News Brief
March 21, 2014

Question: Who wants to know about oil spills?

Answer:  No one who doesn't ask.


Here's a little story from the CBC about their efforts to access information on a not so little pipeline explosion. In response, the National Energy Board disclosed an incident report that the article implies was altered in response to CBC's request. The characters in this story provide some increasingly familiar views. The policy expert notes that this evidence of TransCanada's track record was not available during the Keystone XL Pipeline review. The Aboriginal informant claims that what's happening in the northern bush is out of sight, out of mind.


Here's a similar story under Alberta law: Global Forest Watch requests mass disclosure of oil sand incident reports that must be made available by law. (see Environmental Incidents in Northeastern Alberta's Bitumen Sands Region, 1996-2012). The exception to disclosure is where incidents are under investigation.  The allegation is that such incidents were not returned to the database after investigations closed, meaning that the worst spills were not disclosed. 


Read the rest of this post on the ELC blog.

Federal Court finds unlawful delay by the government under the
Species at Risk Act 


In our recent  post on the Northern Gateway decision report, we mentioned an ongoing court case brought by Ecojustice on behalf of several environmental organizations. The Western Canada Wilderness Committee v Canada (Fisheries and Oceans) case concerns governmental delay in developing recovery strategies under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), including several species that are likely to be impacted by the Northern Gateway Project. In mid-February, the Federal Court issued its decision in this case. 


Under SARA, the federal government has an obligation to prepare and publish recovery strategies for listed species at risk. The recovery strategy is a crucial step for providing protection to endangered or threatened species under SARA. This includes identification and protection of critical habitat necessary for the survival of a species. Timelines for the preparation and publication of recovery strategies are set by SARA (depending on the status of the species, up to four years from the date of listing plus a 90 day public comment and finalization period).


The federal government has consistently failed to meet the statutory requirements for the preparation and publication of recovery plans. While this case specifically considered the failure to develop recovery plans for the White Sturgeon, the Humpback Whale, the Marbled Murrelet and the Woodland Caribou in a timely fashion, these species are merely representative of the systemic problem of substantial delays [paragraph 35].


Read the rest of this post on the ELC blog.

It's Water Week! 

In Alberta, many issues are under considertation and discussion, such as: 

  • in stream flow requirements;
  • allocation processes;
  • wetland protection; and
  • development of conservation tools.

At the Environmental Law Centre we promote policies that protect the health and availability of water today and for the future. We support laws that guarantee equal access to water for all Albertans. 


Our expert advice is changing the way some developments are approved. Many water conservation groups turn to us for advice in advancing their causes. We are also looking at new ways groups can protect water by holding water licenses in trust. 


Please visit the water section of our website to learn more about our work on law and policy that will conserve and protect this valuable resource. 


Congratulations to ELC Director, Dr. Gregory Taylor, on his recent appointment as Vice-Chair of the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting Agency. We are confident that Dr. Taylor will bring great value to the organization in its mandate to "lead the way in environmental monitoring, evaluation and reporting for the province of Alberta and internationally."


ELC Past President, Gavin Fitch was recently recognized as "Her Majesty's Counsel, learned in the law, for the Province of Alberta," or Queen's Counsel (Q.C.). To be eligible for a Q.C. appointment, individuals must demonstrate professional qualities, competence and superior contributions to the administration of justice, the legal profession and the community. Congratulations, Gavin, for this well-deserved accomplishment! 

Leah Orr
Communications Coordinator


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