Sierra Club BC launches judicial review against Site C’s removal of amphibians

A Western Toad Photo: www.flickriver.com

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The Sierra Club of BC and Josette Wier, an environmentalist, have filed a petition for judicial review in the Supreme Court of British Columbia against the Province of British Columbia.

The petition, which was filed yesterday, states the group is looking for a declaration that the Province of British Columbia gave BC Hydro unauthorized permission to remove amphibians along the Peace River during construction of the Site C dam. The group states that the Province lacked the legislative authority to give BC Hydro.

According to a post on the Sierra club website, they state that:

“As part of the civil works for the Site C project, BC Hydro had applied for a permit under the Wildlife Act from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to remove amphibian species from a part of the Peace River that was going to be dewatered for dike construction.  Removing wildlife from its habitat without a permit is an offence under ss. 29, 33 and 37 of the Wildlife Act punishable by imprisonment and fines.”

They also go on to say that ministry emails allegedly show that officials “deliberately and knowingly” ignored the permit process, and gave BC Hydro an “exemption from prosecution” as a way to avoid any delays in the construction process of the dam.

Lawyer Jason Gratl, representing the petitioners says that the law can’t be broken, just because of an inconvenience.

“The Minister is not entitled to jettison the rule of law and facilitate the commission of offences under his enabling statute when the proper administration of that statute becomes inconvenient.

Encouraging the commission of offences under the Wildlife Act by issuing illegitimate exemptions from prosecutions is, from the perspective of the rule of law, much more problematic than passing legislation to allow Site C to evade ordinary financial scrutiny by the BC Utilities Commission.”

According the the application BC Hydro had prepared, several amphibian species were subject to removal from the area, including the Western Toad. The Western Toad is “provincially Blue-listed and designated as a species of special concern under the federal Species at Risk Act.” A Joint Review Panel Board report on Site C apparently found that the project would have harsh consequences on the Western Toad and the habitat that they live on in the wetlands.

BC Sierra Club Executive Director, Bob Perat says that the BC government should have done the impacts assessment that was recommended.

“Damage to any species, especially a species at risk, has grave implications for the ecological integrity of the Peace valley, given the onslaught of oil, gas and hydro projects in the region.

At the very least, the BC government should have done a cumulative impacts assessment, as the Joint Review Panel recommended. Unfortunately, the unlawful permits for amphibian removal are only the latest in a series of attempts to evade due process on Site C by the BC Government.”

The Province has 21 days to respond to the claims, according to the petition.