In late June, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Drilling Board (CNSOPB) issued an incident report – summarized in the National Observer in “ BP Canada spews thousands of litres of toxic mud during offshore drilling incident near Halifax” ; CBC reported “Mi’kmaq want answers from BP Canada after drilling mud spill off Nova Scotia coast” (June 26) . Yet on July 23, the Board issued a notice allowing BP to re-start operations, and describing the terms of an investigation into the incident. CBC summarized it all in “BP Canada restarts drilling off Nova Scotia after spill”.
In response, the Offshore Alliance of Nova Scotia on July 19 sent Open Letters to Prime Minister Trudeau and to the Premier of Nova Scotia , stating : “The inadequacies of the current regulatory and impact assessment regime, the failure to consider the latest science (on risk assessment, dispersants, impacts of seismic, added risks of deepwater drilling, ocean acidification, and recovery of the fishery, to name a few), the poor state of public awareness and involvement and the magnitude of the risk to the marine biosphere and to the present and future economic base of Nova Scotia’s coastal communities all demand an up-to-date, thorough public re-examination. We anticipate an inquiry of this nature could take up to two years. In the meantime, there should be a moratorium on all new oil and gas activity offshore respecting the established precautionary principle.” Similar demands had been made in an Open Letter in June to Canada’s Environment Minister, and names the members of the Offshore Alliance – approximately 20 fisher, social justice and environmental organizations, as well as concerned communities and individuals. They issued their call through the Sierra Club of Canada – the July 19 press release is here .
Local member organizations of the Offshore Alliance of Nova Scotia include the Clean Ocean Action Committee (COAC), which represents fish plant owners, processors and fishermens’ organizations in southwestern NS, and the Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia (CPONS) . The CPONS explanatory Position Paper discusses the issues of what is at stake, and asks “what is regulatory capture?”. The CPONS website includes resources to “Take Action”, including a number of petitions and addresses for a letter writing campaign. The Council of Canadians is also monitoring offshore drilling on the East Coast here , and maintains its own active petition which calls on the federal government “to stop BP from drilling up to seven exploratory wells and institute a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in offshore Nova Scotia. We further demand an end to proposed changes under Bill C-69 that would grant east coast petroleum boards more power in the environmental assessment process for Atlantic offshore drilling.”
Lighthouse at Brier Island, Nova Scotia, from Government of Canada website
Just after the Nova Scotia Minister of Energy announced funding for geoscience research on June 20 to support the $11.8 million Offshore Growth Project to encourage oil and gas development, the Minister of the Environment made good on an election promise from 2017 with the launch of a consultation process to consider coastline protection, allowing the period from June 26 to August 17 for the public to respond to an online survey. Discussion will focus on The Coastal Protection Legislation: Consultation Document , which addresses the complexity of the legislative situation – both federal and provincial legislation – and addresses three questions: 1. How to define a “Coastal Protection Zone” ? 2. How to restrict certain activities within the Coastal Protection Zone? and 3. What provisions are required for monitoring and compliance? The document states: “Fishing and aquaculture will be exempt, but how do we define this exemption? What other economic activities must we keep out of the way of?”
The Ecology Action Centre in Halifax announced the consultation with this neutral press release ; CBC News summarized it with “Nova Scotia seeks public input on legislation to protect coastlines” CBC News, and the Halifax Chronicle published an Editorial on July 3, “Coastal construction rules needed to curtail climate calamities” , calling for the government to allow more time for public input.
A press release on September 29 announced that the Nova Scotia government has introduced amendments to the Environment Act, enabling regulations to set caps on GHG emissions, distribute and enable trading of emission allowances within the province, and set a province-wide greenhouse gas emission target for 2030. The province will create a Green Fund to support climate change initiatives and innovations, and money from emissions sales and fines will be deposited there. Next steps include “developing greenhouse gas reporting regulations this fall and consulting with stakeholders on them”.
The amending legislation, Bill 15, received first Reading in the Legislature on September 29 as a means to satisfy the requirement of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. However, reaction from the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax urges the federal government to reject the plan, stating that “A carbon pricing system that doesn’t actually put a price on carbon, support low-income people, or incentivize clean growth truly misses the point.” The EAC also warns of the risks of extreme volatility since the plan is structured to create a carbon market within Nova Scotia alone – covering a population of under a million people and about 20 businesses. In “Time for Ottawa to cry foul over Nova Scotia cap-and-trade proposal” published in the Hill Times and reposted at Pembina (Nov. 2) , the verdict is similarly negative: “Nova Scotia’s cap-and-trade system could cause the province to lose its foothold on climate leadership. In order to secure a clean, prosperous economy into the future, the provincial government should consider other approaches.”
The Ecology Action website has compiled documents and submissions from the provincial consultations leading up to the September announcement. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Nova Scotia Office published a Backgrounder in May 2017 which outlines its proposals for a stronger cap-and-trade policy.
The Pembina Institute recently compiled three case studies related to energy development in Alberta, in an effort to document the adverse effects on individuals, communities and regions that result from weak environmental laws or regulatory enforcement. The Environmental Law Centre in Alberta also published a series of reports in late 2016, including a module, Substantive Environmental Rights , which discusses environmental rights as a human right. Since 2014, the Blue Dot campaign, led by the David Suzuki Foundation and Ecojustice , has been advocating for environmental rights to be enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
Now, from the Pembina Institute comes The Right to a Healthy Environment: Documenting the need for environmental rights in Canada. It consists of: Case Study #1: Individual impacts of intensive hydraulic fracturing activity in rural Alberta ; #2 Community impacts of air pollution in urban central Alberta (related to coal-fired electricity plants), and #3 Regional impacts of oilsands development in northern Alberta (which examines the rights of First Nations).
In Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Environmental Rights Working Group of the East Coast Environmental Law Association released their proposed and innovative Nova Scotia Environmental Bill of Rights on April 21 2017. The bill states that the people “have a right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment”, and that the “primary responsibility” to protect and conserve that environment falls to the province. It also states that “there is a history of environmental racism in Nova Scotia that has disproportionately and negatively affected historically marginalized, vulnerable, and economically disadvantaged individuals, groups or communities, particularly Indigenous People and African Nova Scotians”. The bill is based on the Precautionary Principle, the Polluter Pays Principle, the Non-Regression Principle, the Intergenerational Equity Principle, and the Principle of Environmental Justice and Equity. Nova Scotians go to the polls in a general election on May 30; a guide to the policy positions of the Liberal, Conservative and NDP parties is here at the CBC website. According to the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, the provincial NDP party has pledged to support an Environmental Bill of Rights .
A discussion paper released in early March by the government of Nova Scotia proposes the structure of a cap-and-trade system for the province, as required by the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change . Nova Scotia is a reluctant participant in the national carbon pricing regime of the Framework, having walked out of one of the federal-provincial meetings on the topic in October 2016.
The Discussion paper, Nova Scotia Cap and Trade Program Design Options , proposes a plan which covers only those sectors required by the Framework, and grants free allocations to them, including Nova Scotia Power and the suppliers of fossil fuel. Sectors not included represent about 10% of emissions, and would be allowed to sell offsets into the system. Fugitive emissions will not be included. As stated in the Discussion paper, the system will not align itself with any other provinces. Yet, days after the release, and in apparent contradiction to the Discussion paper, the CBC reported that the Premier is still in discussion with the provinces of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island about a regional system : see “Welcome to join: Atlantic cap and trade system explored” .
An excellent summary of the features and failings of the plan appears in a post from the Environmental Law blog from Dalhousie University. It states that the proposed plan seems designed to meet the minimum GHG emission reductions obligations under the Pan-Canadian Framework, while also minimizing any impact on Nova Scotia’s economy. “We are clearly far from getting our C&T system right. To do so, would take time, careful analysis and a public dialogue on priorities and values rather than starting assumptions that all we care about is trying to preserve the status quo for as long as we can.” Unfortunately, the deadline for public submissions was March 31, less than a month after the release.
“Political Manipulation Could Derail Nova Scotia’s Cap and Trade System” in the Halifax Examiner is also highly critical. Author Brendan Haley decries the lack of time and opportunity for public input, and states that political expediency seems to be motivating the design of the carbon pricing system . The Ecology Action Centre also has concerns over the proposed system – their position paper is here .