March 2020 Bulletin

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Message from CELA’s Executive Director

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, CELA trusts that our client communities and all other Canadians are staying safe and taking all necessary precautions.

During this time, CELA has moved to remote services. All services are continuing, but in person meetings and events are either rescheduled or moved to remote and on-line alternatives. CELA staff will be continuing with assisting clients to prepare their cases, providing advice, and providing a number of public legal education webinars on issues of most relevance to our client communities.

Our staff are also reaching out in their communities as we all respond to the current situation and help each other through it. The adjustments are unprecedented, but I am proud of how our team is pulling together in this challenging time.

During the pandemic, courts and tribunals in Ontario and across Canada have indefinitely adjourned hearings that were scheduled to commence in late March. For example, CELA represents clients in the carbon pricing appeals that were to be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada on March 24th and 25th, but the Court recently adjourned the case until June 2020. Similarly, CELA clients are involved in a quarry case under the Aggregate Resources Act that was slated to start on March 31st, but Ontario’s Local Planning Appeal Tribunal cancelled the public hearing and will reschedule it in the future. We will keep readers apprised of further developments in these and other CELA cases.

We hope that all of you are well in these challenging times.

-Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director

crocus snowPhoto credit: Kathleen Cooper

The Federal Role in Carbon Pricing

An Argument in Favour of the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act as a Valid Exercise of Canadian Federal Constitutional Jurisdiction

CELA’s Executive Director, Theresa McClenaghan, recently participated in a debate as part of the 2020 Law and Freedom Runnymede Society Conference, arguing in favour of Federal constitutional jurisdiction over the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act. Her remarks form the basis of a compelling new blog post.


Great Lakes Action Plan 2030

Action Plan 2020-2030 for the Future of the St. Lawrence was released earlier this month by the Great Lakes and St Lawrence Collaborative. CELA’s Executive Director Theresa McClenaghan was on the expert panel for the report, which calls for an investment of $100 million per year over 10 years by the Federal Government to better protect the Saint-Laurent region, its quality of water and the health of its residents from the impacts of climate change and toxic substances.

Great Lakes from spaceGreat Lakes in Sun Glint Photo: NASA

Ontario Refuses to Extend Coverage of Clean Water Act

Pursuant to the Environmental Bill of Rights, CELA recently filed an Application for Review that requested the Ontario government to extend the application of the Clean Water Act (CWA) to drinking water sources used by certain non-municipal systems (e.g. private well clusters, First Nations communities, etc.). To date, the application of the CWA has generally been limited to municipal drinking water systems (in defined source protection areas or regions) that serve about 80% of Ontario’s population. Unfortunately, the province’s approach means that approximately 2 million Ontarians who depend on non-municipal drinking water systems are not safeguarded by the protective provisions of the CWA.

This inequitable situation has prompted criticism from the Auditor General of Ontario and the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. Nevertheless, the Environment Ministry has recently advised CELA that it would not conduct the requested review of the CWA. In response, CELA has prepared a blog post and a rebuttal letter which explain why the Ministry’s intransigence leaves public health at risk from waterborne contamination.


CELA Intervenes in Important Constitutional Case

On behalf of three clients, CELA lawyers have obtained judicial permission to intervene in an important court reference that will determine whether Parliament has any constitutional authority to enact the Impact Assessment Act (IAA). Enacted in 2019, the IAA applies to various types of designated projects that occur across Canada, including environmentally significant facilities or activities proposed in Ontario (e.g. large mines, radioactive waste dumps, etc.). However, the Alberta government has asked the province’s Court of Appeal to determine whether the IAA and its implementing regulations are unconstitutional. More information about this case (and its implications for CELA clients and Ontarians at large) are discussed by Richard Lindgren in a new blog post.

Low-Income Energy Network seeking help for electricity costs during COVID-19 shutdown

The Low-Income Energy Network reports that the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) and the Government of Ontario are taking important steps during the COVID-19 crisis that will be of particular help to Ontarians on low income. The OEB has extended the provincially-mandated moratorium on residential disconnection for non-payment until July 31, 2020. They are also extending the disconnection ban to include all other low-volume customers, such as small business customers for reason of non-payment until July 31, 2020. In addition, the OEB is calling on distributors to be more flexible on arrears payment arrangements.

The Government of Ontario is suspending time-of-use electricity rates for a 45-day period, holding electricity prices to the off-peak rate of 10.1 cents-per-kilowatt-hour.

Uranium Processing Plant Relicensing Hearing

Earlier this month, CELA’s Kerrie Blaise and Morten Siersbaek appeared before the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission on behalf of our client, the Citizens Against Radioactive Neighbourhoods (CARN) arguing against the renewal of a uranium processing facility’s operating licence. CARN, a Peterborough-based nonprofit organization, was formed in order to raise awareness about nuclear facilities and advocate for more stringent human health and environmental safeguards.

Uranium fuel manufacturer BWXT Nuclear Energy Canada Inc. had requested a 10-year licence renewal from the CNSC and permission to shift uranium fuel pelleting operations from their Toronto facility to Peterborough. CARN, joined by experts Dr. Tanya Markvart and Dr. Gordon Edwards, asked the CNSC to deny the proponent’s request on the basis that they insufficiently considered sustainability and adverse impacts on human health and vulnerable populations in their licence application.

CELA’s submission on behalf of CARN as well as the expert reports can be found online. Next month, CELA’s bulletin will profile some of the hundreds of written and oral interventions submitted by CARN’s members to the Commission and reflect upon the responses received from the Commission during the hearing.

Case Update: The Proposed Southwestern Landfill

For years, CELA has represented Oxford People Against the Landfill (OPAL) Alliance, which is a citizens’ group opposed to the construction of a new mega-landfill on quarry lands in Oxford County. Local municipalities and other stakeholders also oppose the proposed landfill. In March 2020, the landfill proponent web-posted and invited comments on its draft environmental assessment (EA) until mid-June. CELA looks forward to working with OPAL and its experts in evaluating the adequacy of the proponent’s EA documentation, particularly in relation to impacts to groundwater, surface water, air quality and public health.

CELA Comments on Transit Planning Reforms in Ontario

To expedite four public transit projects in the Greater Toronto Area, the Ontario government is proposing new legislation (Bill 171) and revised regulations under the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA). Given the environmental and socio-economic benefits of well-designed transit systems, CELA has long supported a streamlined planning process for such projects. However, CELA has identified various shortcomings in Ontario’s proposed legislative and regulatory changes, and submitted a brief to the provincial government that contains recommendations for improving Bill 171 and the draft EAA regulations.

Upcoming Events

Great Lakes Lessons from the Past Webinar

Wednesday April 8, 12:30pm-2:00pm EST
Registration is required.

Hosted by Great Lakes advocates from the 1980’s and 1990’s, this webinar will look at key principles, organizing approaches and learnings from past Great Lakes advocacy for PFAS campaigns today. As busy environmental activists, we all appreciate an opportunity to learn from past efforts and not reinvent the wheel. Presenters John Jackson, Tim Eder, Joyce McLean and Paul Muldoon will share engaging and relevant stories and photos of past work on toxic chemicals that will illustrate how current Great Lakes advocates can learn from the past.

Full details on our website; register now to reserve your spot!

riverPhoto credit: Anastasia Lintner

Engaging with Indigenous Communities – A 3-part Webinar Series

CELA is hosting a 3-part webinar series with Gary Pritchard, Manager of Environment and Climate Change with Cambium Aboriginal, talking about how to work effectively and meaningfully with Indigenous communities. Full details about each webinar are on our website; register now to save your spot!

How To Work With Indigenous Peoples
Thursday April 30, 1:00pm-2:00pm EST

Achieving Effective and Meaningful Engagement with Indigenous Communities
Thursday May 7, 1:00pm-2:00pm EST

Treaties 101
Thursday May 14, 1:00pm-2:00pm EST

Canadian Water Policy 101

Thursday May 7, 11:00am-12:00pm ET
(Note – new date)

CELA Special Projects Counsel Healthy Great Lakes Anastasia Lintner will be presenting a webinar talking about the water policy framework in Canada.

Registration is not required for this meeting. Join by clicking here or calling (647) 558-0588. The meeting ID is 261 486 690.

On The Blog

Q & A with Communications Intern Julie Mutis

What is your role and how long have you been involved with CELA?

I am working as a communication intern at CELA as part of my final year at the Ryerson School of Journalism. I have been in this position since January, but I also had the opportunity to work with CELA last winter through an investigative journalism class.

What inspired you to get involved in environmental law and public policy?

I have always been interested in reporting about public health, but I really realized the interconnectedness of environment, policy and health outcomes while working on the Toronto Star’s Tainted Water series in 2019. After that experience, I wanted to keep digging deeper into environmental health issues and CELA was a great fit for me!

Read more…

US Relaxation of Environmental Rules in the Wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic – The Implications for Canada and Mexico

CELA Counsel Joe Castrilli writes about the implications for international arrangements with Canada regarding protection of the North American environment, in the context of the recent decision taken by the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States (citing the coronavirus pandemic as its justification) to temporarily not seek penalties against companies that violate monitoring, reporting, and other obligations under US federal environmental laws.

Read more…