A case that could affect Canadians’ fundamental right to clean air resumes today in the Federal Court of Appeal. Thomas R. Berger, Q.C. will be arguing against the proposed Sumas 2 power plant with Sierra Legal Defence Fund lawyer Tim Howard on behalf of the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation (SPEC) and the David Suzuki Foundation.
After Sierra Legal won a National Energy Board hearing in March 2004, the resulting decision denying U.S. company Sumas Energy 2 was appealed by the company the following month. Environmentalists and residents of BC’s Fraser Valley are concerned about the high levels of pollution the plant would emit into the region. Sumas Energy 2 wants to build a power line through Abbotsford from its proposed natural gas fired power plant, which would be less than half a kilometre away, just across the Canada-U.S. border in Washington State.
“SE2 claims that the NEB decision is an illegal barrier to trade under NAFTA, and that NAFTA means that trade trumps environmental protection,” said Sierra Legal Lawyer Tim Howard. “We will be urging the Court to reject that argument, and preserve the ability of Canadian authorities like the NEB to protect the health of Canadians from foreign pollution sources. And our arguments will be boosted by the assistance of Tom Berger, Q.C., who has agreed to argue this appeal for our clients.”
“The original ruling clearly showed that the proposed plant would cause more pollution and more health costs. A new power plant near Abbotsford would be a disaster,” added Morag Carter, climate change program director for the David Suzuki Foundation.
However, SE2 is countering that the NEB should have considered American companies covered by NAFTA before the interests of Canadian citizens. The National Energy Board decision marks the first time it has ever rejected a project for environmental reasons as well as set a precedent for turning down a proposed energy development.
“Canadians would be appalled to think their regulators might not be able to take human health impacts into account when they make a decision,” said SPEC Executive Director Karen Wristen.