Supreme Court rules Ottawa’s carbon tax is constitutional
(Source: CBC News) In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled the federal Liberal government’s carbon pricing regime is constitutional — a major decision that allows Ottawa to push ahead with its ambitious plan to ensure every province and territory has a price on carbon to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Some provinces — notably Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan — have forcefully opposed the carbon tax, arguing natural resources are in the provinces’ jurisdiction under the Constitution.
Chief Justice Richard Wagner, writing for the majority, said the federal government is free to impose minimum pricing standards because the threat of climate change is so great that it demands a co-ordinated national approach.
He agreed with the federal government’s argument that climate change is a pressing matter of national concern and said it’s constitutionally permissible for Ottawa to take the lead on a threat that crosses provincial boundaries.
“Climate change is real. It is caused by greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activities, and it poses a grave threat to humanity’s future,” Wagner wrote.
Wagner found that Ottawa can act under the Constitution’s “peace, order and good government” clause, better known as POGG — which gives the federal government authority to enact laws to deal with issues that concern the entire country.
The POGG clause
Ottawa has tried to justify constitutionally questionable laws in the past by citing the POGG clause. It has succeeded in few of those cases because the Supreme Court tends to defer to the division of powers set out in sections 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867.
In this case, Wagner said, invoking POGG is justified.
The POGG doctrine applies when there is a “provincial inability to deal with the matter” and where the “failure of one or more provinces to co-operate would prevent the other provinces from successfully addressing it.”
If Canada’s Parliament was blocked from addressing emissions in any way, Wagner said, “irreversible harm would be felt across the country,” especially in communities and regions most vulnerable to the effects of global warming.
Wagner said a patchwork approach — with some provinces refusing to impose a price on carbon — would hinder Canada’s collective fight against climate change. He said there is a “broad consensus among international bodies” that carbon pricing is a “critical measure for the reduction of GHG emissions.”
While Ottawa’s legislation does tread on provincial jurisdiction as set out by the Constitution Act, 1867, the threat of climate change “justifies the limited constitutional impact.”
“The evidence clearly shows that establishing minimum national standards of GHG price stringency to reduce GHG emissions is of concern for Canada as a whole. This matter is critical to our response to an existential threat to human life,” Wagner wrote.
“As a result, it readily passes the threshold test and warrants consideration as a possible matter of national concern.”
Emissions are ‘extraprovincial’: Wagner
Wagner said because emissions are “extraprovincial” by nature and “carbon leakage” across borders is inevitable, there’s a regulatory role for Ottawa to play in ensuring that each jurisdiction contributes to the national effort.
“A failure to include one province in the scheme would jeopardize its success in the rest of Canada,” Wagner wrote. “What is more, any province’s refusal to implement a sufficiently stringent GHG pricing mechanism could undermine GHG pricing everywhere in Canada.”
Wagner pointed out that the federal government’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act says only that the provinces and territories must put a price on carbon emissions — but it doesn’t explicitly dictate how they should do so.
To reduce emissions and help Canada meet its Paris climate accord commitments, the federal government passed legislation in 2018 that demands all provinces levy some sort of “price on pollution,” either through a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade regime.
As part of the legislation, Ottawa established national pricing standards designed to curb the use of fossil fuels. The tax, which is $40 a tonne this year, is set to rise dramatically in the decade to come as the federal government pursues an ambitious, green-friendly economic transition.
While encouraging provinces to craft their own plans, Ottawa said it would slap a carbon tax on fuels in provinces and territories that failed to establish adequate emissions pricing regimes.
The federal tax, the so-called “backstop,” only applies if a province refuses to act — so “the impact on provinces’ freedom to legislate is minimal,” Wagner said.
“Emitting provinces retain the ability to legislate, without any federal supervision, in relation to all methods of regulating GHG emissions that do not involve pricing,” Wagner said. “They are free to design any GHG pricing system they choose as long as they meet the federal government’s outcome-based targets.”
Lengthy dissenting opinions
Justices Russell Brown and Malcolm Rowe both strongly disagreed with the majority’s decision, writing lengthy dissenting opinions in response to Wagner.
Brown said the law’s subject matter “falls squarely within provincial jurisdiction.”
“This is a model of federalism that rejects our Constitution and rewrites the rules of Confederation,” Brown wrote.
“Its implications go far beyond the [carbon tax] act, opening the door to federal intrusion — by way of the imposition of national standards — into all areas of provincial jurisdiction, including intra-provincial trade and commerce, health, and the management of natural resources. It is bound to lead to serious tensions in the federation.”
Rowe said that the POGG clause or national concern doctrine should be a “residual and circumscribed power of last resort.”
“Courts interpreting the division of powers must be careful not to dim or to whittle down the provisions of the Constitution, and its underlying values,” Rowe said. “The Canadian federation guarantees the autonomy of both orders of government within their spheres of jurisdiction.”
Speaking to reporters after the ruling, federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said the debate over carbon pricing is now over and the top court has affirmed that “carbon pricing is integral” to any “credible plan” to reduce emissions.
“Canadians know we have to act, we have to be ambitious in fighting climate change,” he said, adding he’s ready to work with “recalcitrant jurisdictions” like Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan to implement provincial plans to curb emissions.
“We want to do it in a way that fits into the context of the Canadian federation,” he said. “I look forward to having those conversations with all my counterparts.”
Delegates to the Conservative Party policy convention voted down a resolution to add “climate change is real” to the policy book last weekend. Wilkinson took a shot at the Conservatives today, saying they aren’t serious about the environment.
“They’ll need to do some reflecting,” he said. “Climate change shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”
In a statement, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said that, if elected, he’d scrap “the Liberal carbon tax,” which he said “threatens hundreds of thousands of jobs” and puts Canada at a competitive disadvantage in the world.
“Canada’s Conservatives will put forward a clear and comprehensive climate plan focused on reducing emissions, but we won’t do it on the backs of the poorest and working Canadians,” O’Toole said.
Despite the majority ruling, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said today’s court decision “does not change our core conviction that the federal carbon tax is bad environmental policy” and “simply wrong.”
He also said the tax “kills jobs” and “threatens the competitiveness of our industries.” Moe and other leaders have said the carbon backstop places an unfair financial burden on farmers — especially those who use fossil fuels to dry grain and corn.
Moe said that, despite his misgivings, he would soon “outline measures that Saskatchewan will take in the months ahead to protect Saskatchewan people while addressing climate change.” He said Saskatchewan will “forge our own path.”
Jeff Yurek, Ontario’s environment minister, issued a more conciliatory statement. He said the Progressive Conservative government “will continue to do everything we can to make life more affordable for families and businesses,” but it will press ahead with a “tough but fair plan” to hold large industrial emitters accountable for their pollution.
Directive 056 and Manual 012 Updated to Align with OneStop Well Licence Application Functionality
Today we released new editions of Directive 056: Energy Development Applications and Schedules and Manual 012: Energy Development Applications Procedures and Schedules. Changes have been made to align with well licensing procedures that have been incorporated into the OneStop platform, as announced in Bulletin 2019-22 and Bulletin 2020‑22. Enhancements to well licensing that are scheduled to come into effect with the next OneStop wells release have also been included in the changes. The modifications include the following key areas:
- new well licences
- amendments to well licences
- information update submissions on select well licence data to increase integrity
- re-entry, resumptions, and deepenings
- cancellation of approvals
Applications of a licensee to resume activities in its abandoned well or to conduct additional drilling to a new formation after the initial rig release must still be submitted through the Digital Data Submission system. These applications will be included in OneStop in the near future.
Additional amendments to Directive 056 and Manual 012 have also been made as part of our contributions towards the Government of Alberta’s Red Tape Reduction Act. Please refer to Bulletin 2020-07 and the directive’s “What’s New in This Edition” section for further information.
The revised editions of Directive 056 and Manual 012 are available on the AER website, www.aer.ca. If you have questions about updates, please contact the AER’s Customer Contact Centre by phone at 403-297-8311 (1-855-297-8311 toll free) or by email at [email protected].
Alberta energy companies fined $1.5 million for unlawful deposit of chlorinated water into North Saskatchewan River
The Government of Canada is committed to protecting the health, safety, and environment of Canadians. The Government enforces laws that protect Canada’s air, water, and natural environment, and we take this responsibility very seriously.
On March 18, 2021, Gibson Energy ULC and GEP ULC (operating in partnership as Gibson Energy Partnership) were sentenced in the Provincial Court of Alberta and ordered to pay a total fine of $1.5 million. The companies were found guilty of two counts of violating the Fisheries Act. The fine will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund. In addition to the fine, the companies will be ordered to make a presentation to industry within Strathcona County about the danger of chlorinated water.
The charges stem from an incident that occurred between March 4 and 6, 2014, when employees discovered a leak from the fire suppression system, located at the Gibson Edmonton Terminal. Over the course of three days, chlorinated water entered an unnamed creek, which flows to the North Saskatchewan River. Analysis of the water at the release site and where it entered the North Saskatchewan River determined the levels of chlorine to be deleterious, or harmful, to fish.
On July 25, 2019, after a two-week trial, the court found Gibson Energy ULC and GEP ULC guilty of the following violations:
- depositing or permitting the deposit of a deleterious substance in water frequented by fish, or in a place where the deleterious substance may enter water frequented by fish, in violation of subsection 36(3) of the Fisheries Act; and,
- failing to, as soon as feasible, take all reasonable measures, consistent with public safety and with the conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat, to prevent the deposit of a deleterious substance, or to counteract, mitigate or remedy any adverse effects that result from the occurrence, in violation of 38(6) of the Fisheries Act
As a result of this conviction, the company names will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry. The Registry contains information on convictions of corporations registered for offences committed under certain federal environmental laws.
Alberta’s Extended Producer Responsibility Framework – Engagement and Virtual Meeting Sessions Information and Registration
Keeping single-use plastics, packaging, paper products and hazardous household waste out of our landfills not only helps protect the environment, but also helps diversify the economy, reduce emissions and create jobs.
This is why Alberta’s government is exploring a circular plastics economy as part of Alberta’s Natural Gas Vision and Strategy. Materials in a circular economy are reused, recycled and remanufactured, so the full value of material is realized across multiple lifecycles. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) helps create more circular economies by incenting industry to be innovative in the packaging and products they create to make them more recyclable and durable.
Province-wide EPR programs will provide for greater efficiency and economy of scale for recycling. It will shift the cost and management from municipalities and municipal taxpayers to those directly producing and consuming products. An EPR approach means producers take responsibility at end-of-life for the products and packaging they put on the market, supporting innovation in recyclable products.
Many jurisdictions have already made this shift, and Alberta wants to design a made-in-Alberta solution to plastic and other recyclable waste. That’s why Environment and Parks has launched an engagement with Albertans, municipalities, industry experts, and indigenous communities. We will collect feedback on the following topics:
- strategy design of the program
- materials to be included in the program, including blue box recycling materials and household hazardous waste
- potential fees at point of purchase
- barriers, challenges and opportunities
Your participation in engagement on proposed changes to support EPR in Alberta and the implementation of a circular plastics economy is important. We would like to invite your organization to participate in the critical conversation required to build this necessary foundation for establishing a circular economy, and achieving Alberta’s goal to become the western North America centre of excellence for plastics diversion and recycling.
Please join us for a virtual engagement session with the following objectives, Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) will provide:
- an overview of the current state of waste management in Alberta, and introduce goals of the engagement;
- an overview of EPR and its benefits to achieving goals in the Strategy;
- information of the proposed policy changes related to EPR.
Please complete our availability poll by March 25th, with your preferred time to attend a virtual engagement session. We will be working to group stakeholders with similar interests to the extent possible. Some sessions may have a mix of sectors to ensure we are able to maximize participation at times convenient to stakeholders. Virtual Sessions run from March 30th to April 14th.
A discussion paper outlines the proposed policy changes and EPR model elements. The paper also includes discussion questions to support you in providing feedback. We recommend you review this document prior to the virtual engagement session. You can find a pdf version of the document on this webpage on the top right-hand side, directly under the image.
Written responses to the questions in the discussion paper can be submitted via https://your.alberta.ca/extended-producer-responsibility.
The submission period closes April 30, 2021.
Your feedback will help inform Alberta’s Extended Producer Responsibility Framework.
If you have any questions or require further information about the upcoming engagement process, please contact me at [email protected].
Apply today for the Reducing Environmental Footprint technology competition
Up to $50 million is now available through the new Reducing Environmental Footprint Technology Competition offered by the Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN). ERA is accepting applications on behalf of CRIN for breakthrough technology solutions that will reduce Canada’s oil and gas industry’s impact on land, air, and water while addressing economic concerns. It is one of three unique competitions with combined awards totaling $80 million from CRIN.
The Reducing Environmental Footprint technology competition is designed to advance technology solutions for high-priority environmental challenges across Canada’s oil and gas industry with the intent to also export technologies internationally. Up to $10 million is available per successful applicant. Applications must be submitted before Monday, May 20, 2021 at 5 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (UTC-7h). An informational webinar will be held on Wednesday, April 7 at 10 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (UTC-7h).
Collaboration between multiple organizations is required and the project team must consist of at least one small- or medium-sized enterprise (SME) and at least one oil and gas producer.
America’s Bald Eagle Population Has Quadrupled
(Source: New York Times) There were only about 72,000 bald eagles in the lower 48 states in 2009. Researchers say the population is now above 300,000.
The bald eagle population in the lower 48 states has quadrupled since 2009, researchers said this week, underscoring decades of efforts to protect a species that was once on the brink of extinction.
There were an estimated 316,700 bald eagles in the lower 48 states during the 2019 breeding season, including more than 71,400 breeding pairs, according to a report issued on Wednesday by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
In 2009, the bald eagle population in the lower 48 states was estimated to be just above 72,000, including roughly 30,000 breeding pairs.
Deb Haaland, the secretary of the Interior, said at a news conference on Wednesday that the results were “truly a historic conservation success story.”
“The bald eagle has always been considered a sacred species to American Indian people,” said Ms. Haaland, the first Native American to lead a cabinet agency. “Similarly it’s sacred to our nation as America’s national symbol.”
Martha Williams, a deputy director at the Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a statement that her organization would keep working with state and federal agencies, tribes, private landowners and others to ensure that the bald eagle population continues to increase.
Bryan Watts, a biology professor and the director of the Center for Conservation Biology at William & Mary, said on Thursday that the report reflected what he had seen in the Chesapeake Bay region, where the bald eagle population had been growing about 8 to 10 percent per year.
“When you look across the continent, the continental population is really a mosaic of smaller subpopulations,” Professor Watts said. “And those populations have started their growth phases at different times, and they will ultimately reach saturation at different times.”
Researchers were able to include younger eagles and floaters — mature eagles that were unable to secure breeding territories — in the population estimate that was released on Wednesday, which they said they had not been able to do as effectively in previous studies.
The numbers are particularly remarkable given that the species was nearly driven to extinction in the last century.
In 1917, bald eagles were considered a menace in Alaska. The government sponsored a bounty of 50 cents a bird, and later a dollar, leading to more than 120,000 confirmed killings. By the mid-20th century, all but a few hundred bald eagles were presumed dead, killed off largely by widespread use of the synthetic insecticide DDT. The bald eagle population reached its lowest point of 417 known nesting pairs in 1963, researchers said.
But through protection and conservation efforts, and the banning of DDT in 1972, the population was able to recover over the years. The bald eagle was removed from Endangered Species Act protection in 2007.
While many celebrated the increase in numbers, bald eagles in recent years have become a nuisance for poultry farmers hoping to raise a full, healthy stock, prompting many to apply for an eagle-depredation permit from the Fish and Wildlife Service.
“I really think that the population has reached a period where we are kind of moving beyond conservations restrictions,” Professor Watts said, adding that eagle populations in areas like Florida, the Great Lakes and the Pacific Northwest have been “raging” since the 1970s and 1980s.
Professor Watts said there were instances of eagles nesting as yard birds in many residential areas. “That wasn’t the case in the ’70s and ’80s,” he said. “In fact, we never could have anticipated they would do that.”
He does not see society reverting to a period where hunting bald eagles would be permitted, he said, adding that bald eagles are the United States’ national symbol. “I think they should be revered, respected and protected,” he said.
Asked if the report carried hope for other endangered and formerly endangered species, Professor Watts said it was an indicator of what can be accomplished when a culture collectively decides to value something.
“I hope that we will get back to the time where we recognize the environment as an important support structure for our society,” he said, “and we respect some of the species that are currently in decline.”
9am – 11:30 am
Thursday, April 15th, 2021
As the largest Canadian distributor & supplier of in situ and ex situ remediation amendment and other environmental technology including unique water and atmospheric emission solutions, Chemco is inviting you to attend our Spring Environmental Technology Webinar that is organized in collaboration with ESAA.
This technical workshop will cover a wide range of topics such as new techniques for chemical oxidation, chemical reduction, water treatment & odour and atmospheric emission medias.
9:00-9:05 – Welcoming Remarks and Comment (Joe Chowaniec & Jean Pare)
9:05 – 9:35 – Bio-Conservation – Speaker to be confirmed – Gas Filtration Media Performance and Treatment capability
9:35-10:05 – EOS Remediation – Brad Elkins – Addressing DNAPL via a unique self emulsify oil formulation with micro scale zero valent iron
10:05-10:15 – Coffee / Lunch / Stretching Break
10:15-10:45 – Peroxychem – Brant Smith – Easy to use oxidants to dealt with hydrocarbon and other organic contaminant in difficult geologies
10:45-11:15 – Hoganas – Alex Korff – Novel zero valent iron properties and uses for contamination destruction as PRB or filtration media
11:15-11:20 – Closing remarks
- $0 for ESAA Members
- $10 for Non-Members
Virtual EnviroTech 2021 Information and Call for Abstracts
Wetland Knowledge Exchange April 2021 Webinar
On April 29th, Pascal Badiou of Ducks Unilimited Canada and Ronnie Drever of Nature United will present on Natural Climate Solutions for Canada.
Registration for this free webinar can be found at: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/april-2021-wetland-knowledge-exchange-webinar-tickets-146828641419?aff=EmailMarketting
This events is part of the Wetland Knowledge Exchange’s monthly webinar series.
The Knowledge Exchange provides a forum for sharing and exchanging boreal wetland BMP information with a network of industry, government, academic, consulting, not-for-profit, and other interested contacts from across the country. The Knowledge Exchange was developed to address a need for increased information transfer and collaboration that was identified by participants of the Wetlands Best Management Practices Workshop hosted by Ducks Unlimited Canada in January of 2016.
The Knowledge Exchange is supported and administered by Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) and membership is free and open to anyone who wishes to join, so please consider sharing this invitation with anyone you think might be interested in participating. You can subscribe to the Knowledge Exchange’s newsletter here to receive a monthly electronic newsletter covering wetland BMP events, studies, demonstrations, products, news, and other related information.
ESAA Job Board
Check out the new improved ESAA Job Board. Members can post ads for free.
- Business Development Manager – Remediation Services – Clean Harbors
- Summer Students / Seasonal Staff – Vegetation Management – North Shore Environmental Consultants
- Senior Aquatic Ecologist – SLR Consulting
- Environmental Scientist – SLR Consulting
- Principal Hydrogeologist – SLR Consulting
- Senior Environmental Assessment / Environmental Planning Professional – SLR Consulting
- Project Archaeologist – Tree Time Services
- Permit Archaeologist – Tree Time Services
- Environmental Assistant – Paragon Soil & Environmental Consulting
- Manager, Human Resource – Trace Associates
- Senior Researcher – Reclamation, Remediation – InnoTech Alberta
- Junior Environmental Consultant – North Shore Environmental Consultants
- Intermediate Environmental Consultant – North Shore Environmental Consultants
- Intermediate Environmental Consultant – North Shore Environmental Consultants
- Environmental Engineer / Scientist / Technology – Nichols Environmental (Canada)
- Intermediate / Senior Environmental Consultant – Ridgeline Canada
- Project Technologist, Environmental Due Diligence & Remediation – Pinchin