Wellington Water Watchers held out as good example in Environmental Commissioners’ Report

In the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s annual report released today, we are held out as a good example!

"...Following the filing of the appeal, two non-profit non-government organizations, Wellington Water Watchers and the Council of Canadians (the “NGOs”), applied for and were granted party status in the appeal, meaning they were entitled to make their own submissions on any potential changes to the permit..."

Read the full statement: 

"1.7.1 The Importance of Public Participation in Environmental Appeals

In October 2012, Nestlé Canada Inc. (the “Appellant”) filed an appeal of the Ministry of the Environment’s decision to impose certain conditions in a Permit to Take Water (Environmental Registry #011-6182). The permit at issue governed the Appellant’s entitlement to take water from a well near Erin; the company had been drawing water from the well since 1988 and bottling it for commercial sale at a different location.

In April 2012, the Appellant applied for a new permit to replace a previous version that would expire in August 2012. Unlike previous permits issued for this well, the 2012 permit allowed the Appellant to take water at increased rates on a per minute or per day basis between April and September, as long as a total monthly cap was not exceeded. The Appellant had requested this condition to allow it greater flexibility in its operations. The permit imposed another condition, which further restricted the maximum daily water taking during drought conditions; this restriction was the subject of the appeal.

Following the filing of the appeal, two non-profit non-government organizations, Wellington Water Watchers and the Council of Canadians (the “NGOs”), applied for and were granted party status in the appeal, meaning they were entitled to make their own submissions on any potential changes to the permit. Subsequently, the Appellant and the ministry reached an agreement that would loosen the drought restrictions and see the company withdraw its appeal; they submitted this settlement agreement to the Environmental Review Tribunal (the “Tribunal”) for approval, as required. The NGOs objected to the terms of the agreement, however, arguing that loosening the drought-related restrictions would not be in the public interest. At a preliminary hearing in October 2013, the Tribunal agreed with the NGOs and refused to approve the proposed settlement, instead ordering a full hearing. A month later, the Appellant filed notice that it wished to withdraw its appeal; none of the other parties objected and the Tribunal accepted the withdrawal and dismissed the appeal without changing any of the conditions of the permit.

This case demonstrates the importance of public involvement in appeal processes. Without the submissions of the NGOs it seems unlikely the Tribunal would have rejected the original settlement agreement, since there would have been no one to raise issues relating to the public interest. As a result of their involvement, the Tribunal was asked to carefully consider these aspects, which ultimately led to a stronger, more protective permit."

http://www.eco.on.ca/uploads/Reports-Annual/2013-14/2014%20ar.pdf, 1.7.1, pg 38


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