VANCOUVER, B.C. – BC’s highest court ruled against the Peace Valley Landowner Association today in the continuing fight against the Site C dam.
While a different court battle is ongoing in a Montreal courtroom regarding Site C, this could be another blow to those arguing that the dam should not go ahead.
The main issue: Site C’s environmental assessment certificate and 4 “recommendations”.
In the ruling written by The Honourable Mr. Justice Groberman, and concurred by The Honourable Madam Justice Neilson, and The Honourable Mr. Justice Fitch, the key issue was on 4 recommendations that the PVLA thought were not addressed and that it was unlawful.
But in the ruling today, the 4 recommendations that were the problem were not seen as “recommendations” by s. 17 of the Environmental Assessment Act.
The judges agreed that therefore, any failure from the Ministers to consider those recommendations before the certificate was issued, meant that the Ministers did not make any mistakes.
In a joint effort, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office made a “Environmental Impact Statement Guideline” package, which was designed to “set out the scope of the Site C assessment”. Those guidelines were completed in September of 2012.
Within those guidelines, BC Hydro was required to give specific information, and to provide a thorough “Environmental Impact Statement”. That statement was to show the need for the project and also the purpose of the project, technical and economic alternatives to the project, as well as benefits of the project.
BC Hydro complied and submitted the statement in January of 2013. After a review of the statement and also public input, BC Hydro was required to make changes to that statement. That changed statement was then accepted by the federal and provincial agencies in August of 2013.
A single hearing panel, which was called the “Joint Review Panel” was made to give an assessment for the purposes of federal as well as provincial laws.
Then between September and November 2013, the panel asked for more information from BC Hydro. By November, it was decided that it was ready for public hearings. Those hearings took place from December 2013 to January 2014. On May 1st 2014, the panel produced its report for the project.
The judge notes that the ministers knew about the recommendations and after a lot of consideration, they found that those 4 recommendations should not affect the issuing of the certificate, but that they could be considered by the government after the certificate had been issued.
In the judges judgement, he says recommendations 46 through 49 in the panel’s report were not actually “recommendations” coming from s. 17 of the Environmental Assessment Act. That meant that the ministers did not need to take into account the 4 “recommendations” when they decided to issue the environmental certificate.
The judge then says he dismisses the appeal.