Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal granted permission late yesterday to environmental groups and local residents to appeal environmental approvals issued to Lafarge Canada Inc. The approvals, issued last December by the Ministry of the Environment (MOE), permit Lafarge to collect, store and burn various wastes – including scrap tires, plastics, and meat and bone meal wastes – as “alternative fuels” at its cement manufacturing plant at Bath, Ontario.
However, in its detailed 34-page decision, the Tribunal concluded that the MOE’s decision to issue the two approvals was unreasonable and could result in significant environmental harm. It found that “the kinds of contaminants to be emitted from the Lafarge kiln from the use of both traditional and waste-derived fuels are potentially hazardous to the environment and human health and safety.”
“Our clients are very pleased that the Tribunal has agreed there is merit to their longstanding concerns about waste-burning at the Lafarge facility,” stated Robert Wright, senior counsel with Sierra Legal, which represents the Loyalist Environmental Coalition. “This decision supports their concerns about the cumulative environmental and health impacts of the Lafarge operations on the community.”
“The Tribunal’s decision correctly chastises the MOE for failing to consider the impact of these approvals on my clients’ common law rights to use and enjoy their property without impacts from the Lafarge facility,” said Joe Castrilli, an environmental lawyer representing local landowners. “The MOE was further criticized for issuing the approvals without adequate baseline data.”
“This is a significant legal victory that will help facilitate access to environmental justice,” stated Richard Lindgren, counsel with the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), which represents Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and Gord Downie.
“The Tribunal’s decision demonstrates that citizens can work together to protect the environment and to ensure governmental accountability for decisions affecting public health and natural resources.”
The groups now have fifteen days to file their appeal with the Environmental Review Tribunal of their appeal.