Judicial Review Challenges Launched Against Pacific NorthWest LNG Approval

Lelu Island, proposed site of Pacific NorthWest LNG Project
Lelu Island: Site of the proposed Pacific NorthWest LNG Project, at the mouth of the Skeena River. Photo credit: Brian Huntington

Today, lawyers with CELL filed an application for judicial review at the Federal Court on behalf of SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, a non-profit conservation organization based in northern BC. Along with other First Nations who have also launched legal action today, SkeenaWild is challenging the federal government’s approval of a $11.4 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project at the mouth of the Skeena River.

The Pacific NorthWest LNG Project is a proposal to build a natural gas liquefaction facility and export terminal on Lelu Island, adjacent to Agnew and Flora Bank. Hundreds of millions of juvenile salmon come down the Skeena River every year to rest in the eelgrass habitat found in these areas as they become accustomed to life in the marine environment. This estuary is one of the most sensitive and productive salmon habitats in North America.

We argue that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency failed to properly assess and report on the project’s impacts on fish and fish habitat. In particular, we challenge the Agency’s conclusion that the project will have no significant impact on fish and fish habitat even though the project could permanently destroy almost 35,000 m2 of crucial salmon habitat.

We also challenge the Agency’s failure to do a cumulative effects assessment associated with the project’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. If built, this project will be one of the biggest point-source emitters of GHG in Canada and be a significant obstacle to Canada meeting its GHG reduction obligations under the Paris Agreement.

The lawsuit also targets determinations made by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the federal Cabinet approving the project. We contend that, if the Agency’s report is invalid, then the approvals are invalid as well.

Today’s application for judicial review was drafted in collaboration with a team of six law students who are working with CELL this term as part of CELL’s educational program. Through working on this application, these law students obtained first-hand experience working with practising lawyers in reviewing the evidence, interviewing clients and experts, doing legal research, strategizing legal arguments, and drafting pleadings for the case.

Posted October 27, 2016
Notice of application for judicial review: Link
SkeenaWild press release: Link
Globe and Mail story: Link
Desmog Canada story: Link

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