Ecojustice Executive Director Devon Page was published today at The Mark writing about the gutting of one of Canada’s most important environmental laws in this year’s federal budget and what that means for disasters like the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The proposed changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) buried deep within the 900 page Bill C-9…(would) deliver a body blow, if not a death strike, to the idea of environmentally sustainable development in Canada. Twenty years of experience protecting the environment through environmental assessment, both inside and outside the courtroom, has shown that the natural world and the health of Canadians will suffer as a result. One needs only look south of the border to see the kinds of effects these changes may have: a legal loophole allowed drilling by BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig to avoid a U.S. federal environmental assessment.
These changes to CEAA would eliminate thousands of required environmental assessments and give the government broad discretion to reduce the scope of whatever assessments they do perform. As a result, the environmental impacts of large industrial projects like tar sands and new industrial mines could be largely ignored, and future assessments of environmental harm could be limited to small sections of projects such as roads and stream crossings – ignoring the pollution and devastation that would be caused by the project as a whole.
This is exactly what our Supreme Court victory over the Red Chris mine was about. Federal authorities were seeking to approve the massive copper and gold mine after reducing the scope of their assessment, unbelievably, to exclude the mine itself. But as pointed out in the article above, the changes being proposed for CEAA would undo Ecojustice’s Supreme Court victory and grant the federal government the power to similarly reduce the “scope” of their assessments for future mines, tar sands projects and other major polluting activities.
Ecojustice has been active in fighting these changes, including our appearance yesterday before the federal Finance Committee asking for the sections that gut CEAA to be removed from the budget bill. Our work on the file continues.