Sierra Club Canada Foundation et al. v. Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada et al.
Jurisdiction: Supreme Court of Canada
Side A: Sierra Club Canada Foundation et al (Ngo)
Side B: Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada et al. (Individual government)
Core objectives: Whether the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada’s decision to approve the Bay du Nord Development Project was within his jurisdiction under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and was reasonable.
SummaryIn this case, the applicants, Sierra Club Canada Foundation and Équiterre filed an application for judicial review of the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change’s (the “Minister”) decision approving, with conditions, the environmental assessment for the Bay du Nord Development Project (the “Project”), and authorizing the Project to proceed, under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (the “Act”). The application also names the Attorney General of Canada and the proponent of the Project, Equinor Canada Ltd. (“Equinor”), as respondents.
Equinor is proposing to develop the Project in the Flemish Pass offshore Newfoundland, with expected reserves of 300 million barrels of oil. In approving the Project, the Minister took into account the environmental assessment report for the Project, prepared by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada. The Minister determined that the Project was not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.
The applicants submit that the environmental assessment report did not satisfy the requirements under the Act or the guidelines for the assessment of the Project. Among other things, the applicants allege that the report did not acknowledge all of the GHG emissions associated with the Project, including downstream GHG emissions which could account for 90% of the Project’s total emissions, and the effects related to additional production for the Project. Therefore, the applicants submit that the report failed to consider all of the Project effects and was therefore deficient. As a result, the Minister lacked jurisdiction to make the decision as he relied on a report that did not meet the requirements under the Act.
The applicants further allege that the Minister’s decision that the Project was not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects as set out under the Act was unreasonable, as the Minister failed to consider downstream GHG emissions, the cumulative effects of the emissions, the effects of shipment and transportation of oil and other effects of the Project. Moreover, in their view, the Minister did not provide any justification as to why he did not consider those effects. The applicants argue that the Minister had information on the GHG emissions from the Project, including that the oil produced by the Project could cause approximately 129 megatonnes of GHG emissions. In their view, the Minister did not consider the information before him in his decision to approve the Project.
The applicants are requesting that the Federal Court of Canada (i) find that the Minister’s decision is beyond the jurisdiction of the Minister and therefore invalid, (ii) issue an order that the Minister’s decision is unreasonable and therefore invalid, and (iii) issue an order quashing his decision.