Ecojustice Case – Climate change Case Status: Victory

Challenging the Kearl tar sands project in Alberta

Sean NixonLawyer
Pembina InstituteClient
Sierra Club of CanadaClient
Toxics Watch Society of AlbertaClient
Prairie Acid Rain CoalitionClient
Photo: Eryn Rickard via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0

The proposed Kearl project involves digging up two hundred square kilometres of Boreal Forest and strip mining it for a stubbornly viscous fossil fuel called bitumen, commonly referred to as tar.

Despite leaving a scar on the landscape visible from space, a joint federal-provincial Review Panel that conducted an assessment of the project had – remarkably – determined that the mining operation would not cause a significant environmental impact.

Why was Ecojustice involved?

On behalf of a coalition of environmental organizations inculding; Pembina Institute, Sierra Club of Canada, Toxics Watch Society of Alberta and Prairie Acid Rain Coalition, Ecojustice filed an Application for Judicial Review in the Federal Court of Canada in March 2007 challenging Imperial Oil’s Kearl Tar sands project north of Fort McMurray, Alberta.

In February 2008 we went to court, arguing that the Panel had failed to do its job, and that a proper environmental review must take place before the federal government can decide whether to allow the project to proceed.

In what has been hailed as a huge victory for the environment, the Federal Court released a stunning judgment in March 2008 (Pembina Institute for Approgriate Development et al v Attoney General of Canada et al., 2008 FC 302). The Court accepted our argument that the panel had made crucial legal errors.

What does this victory mean?

The momentous victory is the first time a tar sands joint panel assessment has been successfully appealed.

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