A collective of environmental groups are requesting that the Supreme Court of Canada overturn a Federal Court of Appeal ruling that they say sets a damaging precedent for the future of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA).
Earlier this year, the Federal Court of Appeal set a precedent in a ruling that the groups say is contrary to the purpose of the CEAA—described as a federal “look before you leap” statute that serves as an integral component of sound decision-making. The groups are now seeking leave from the Supreme Court to appeal that ruling.
Specifically, their concerns relate to the standards that were upheld in the environmental assessment of plans to build nuclear reactors at the Darlington site on Lake Ontario, east of Toronto. However, the appeal would have implications for other projects already reviewed under CEAA, including Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline and the Site C dam in British Columbia, as well as future environmental assessments carried out under that law.
The request to the Supreme Court for “leave” to appeal is required because there is no automatic right of appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. As a result, the environmental groups must argue in their application for leave that it is a matter of national interest to revisit the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision regarding the interpretations of the standards for environmental assessment in Canada.
“It’s a ruling that undermines the spirit of environment assessment law in Canada and sets a damaging precedent for future project reviews,” said Rick Lindgren, lawyer for the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA).
“If regulators aren’t required to carefully consider the consequences of a large nuclear accident when reviewing a nuclear project, what are they required to consider?” said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, senior energy analyst with Greenpeace Canada.
“Allowing major industrial projects to proceed without giving careful consideration to the biggest threats they pose to human health and the environment runs counter the basic principle of responsible, sustainable development,” he said.
Lawyers from Ecojustice and CELA are working on behalf of Greenpeace Canada, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, CELA, and a regional coalition of groups and individuals in northeastern Ontario.