Ecojustice Blog – Climate change, Nature Posted on November 26, 2012 (updated: February 17, 2015)

When “green” isn’t good

Kimberly Shearon headshotKimberly ShearonStaff

While shifting away from fossil fuels should be a top priority for Canadians, we must also realize that sometimes, “green” energy projects aren’t as green as they might seem at first blush.

That’s certainly the case with the proposed Lower Churchill Generation project, a mega-dam project that would destroy the Grand River, Canada’s seventh-largest river, turning the free-flowing waterway into two reservoirs. Surrounding ecosystems and local wildlife – as well as the people who rely on them – all stand to be adversely impacted by the project.

How could a project that would destroy a major river, killing fish that live there and harming local caribou herds, be considered “green”?

That’s why Ecojustice lawyers are in Federal Court this week seeking a court order that would block the federal government from issuing permits or financial guarantees for the mega-dam until an environmental assessment for the project is completed in full.

There are lots of viable green alternatives to a mega-dam in Labrador, like wind power and tidal power, but those alternatives have yet to be studied by the project’s review panel. While the panel has already examined the project and concluded that it would have significant adverse environmental impacts, the panel failed to assess key issues like need for the project, project alternatives and cumulative effects.

In the absence of a complete environmental assessment that examines whether this project is needed or justified, we believe it would be unlawful for the federal government to allow this project to proceed.

Going to court is often a last resort, but it’s also the most effective way to ensure that the panel does the job ultimately set out to do: determine whether this project is needed, is the best available option and serves the best interests of Canadians.

This case also has implications beyond this specific project. It will be important in reinforcing the critical duties review panels must fulfill in assessing the justification for major projects with far-reaching environmental impacts. All projects under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act should receive a rigorous review — including need for and alternatives to the proposed project — and without it, the federal government should never let a project proceed.

Check back later this week for an update from inside the courtroom.

In the meantime, you can help us continue to take important issues like this one before the courts by making a $5 donation today.

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