No 39, Posted August 5, 2010
After reading Andrew Nikiforuk’s devastating July 15 article in The Tyee, What Those Who Killed the Tar Sands Report Don’t Want You to Know, I fired off an email to Ecojustice, Canada’s legal champion for a healthy environment —
“As a monthly donor to Ecojustice, and with respect to the Tar Sands’ concerns that Andrew Nikiforuk has documented in his July 15, 2010 article, What Those Who Killed the Tar Sands Report Don’t Want You to Know, I’m interested to know 1) if Ecojustice believes there are grounds for legal action against the federal government? and 2) if there is a case here, is Ecojustice contemplating legal action? I look forward to your timely reply.”
On August 5, I received this reply from Ecojustice’s staff lawyer, Barry Robinson, along with his permission to include his response here in my blog:
“Dear Mr. White,
Thank you for your recent inquiry to Ecojustice about Andrew Nikiforuk’s article on the Parliamentary Committee hearings into oil sands and water, and whether legal action could be taken against the federal government.
Ecojustice made a presentation to the Parliamentary Committee when it was in Calgary in the spring of 2009. In our presentation, we urged the federal government to take on a bigger role in monitoring and regulating tar sands operations, primarily through the use of the Fisheries Act. Therefore, we, along with others, were very disappointed when the Committee announced that they would not be completing their report. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any legal tools that would compel the Committee to complete the report or to release the draft report.
Ecojustice has been active however on other fronts to address the water quality and quantity issues associated with the tar sands:
1. In the spring of 2009, we requested that Environment Canada conduct further investigations of leakage from tailings ponds into fish bearing streams. Environment Canada agreed and has commenced these studies.
2. In the fall of 2009, we assisted Environmental Defence in filing a complaint with the Committee on Environmental Cooperation under NAFTA regarding Environment Canada’s failure to enforce the Fisheries Act in the tar sands. We are awaiting a reply from the Committee.
3. We are currently preparing a legal challenge to the Energy Resources Conservation Board approval of the Syncrude tailings pond management plans which failed to meet the requirements of the ERCB’s own regulations.
4. We continue to monitor the work of Dr. David Schindler and others with respect to water quality below tar sands operations and expect that we will take further legal action as the evidence of pollution accumulates.
I hope that answers your questions. Please contact me if you require further information. With the continued support of yourself and others, we will continue to take legal action to protect the Athabasca River and its tributaries.”
Victories Report 2010. Ecojustice’s biggest court wins, precedents and reports from the past year. Download Attachment (PDF)