Sumas Energy 2 was a natural gas burning power plant, slated to be built just one kilometre from the Canadian border in Washington State. The project, would have produced hundreds of tonnes of harmful air pollutants annually, most of which would blow over the border to Abbotsford, B.C., situated in one of Canada’s most polluted airsheds.

To sell its power, the company required an international power line connecting the plant to B.C. Hydro’s grid. We intervened at National Energy Board (NEB) hearings on the power line on behalf of the David Suzuki Foundation and the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation. The company was urging the board to ignore the significant environmental impacts of the power plant, and only consider issues about the power lines in making its decision.

The NEB ruled against the proposal because the power plant would impose the burden of pollution on Canada without providing any benefits. The company launched an appeal, claiming that the NEB decision is an illegal barrier to trade under NAFTA.

We then represented our clients at the Federal Court of Appeal, which dismissed the company’s arguments that the NEB’s overstepped the limits on its powers and rejected the company’s position that the NEB decision violated NAFTA by creating trade barriers. In January 2010, Sumas Energy 2 announced that it would not appeal the Federal Court of Appeal decision and abandoned the project.

Why was Ecojustice Involved?

This case involved a project that could fundamentally affect Canadians’ right to clean air.

What does this victory mean?

Not only does this victory keep pollution out of the air, the NEB and Court of Appeal decisions also send a strong message to foreign corporations that Canada is willing to push back against projects that could harm the environment and negatively impact the health of residents.

 

Photo by Lijuan Guo via Shutterstock.