Lafarge has lost its legal battle at the Ontario Court of Appeal to stop an independent hearing from scrutinizing a controversial incineration proposal at its plant west of Kingston, Ontario.
The defeat means that the cement producer will scrap its plans to burn tires as fuel.
“It’s a very disappointing decision for us … fundamentally it means that the project is done,” said Rob Cumming, spokesman for Lafarge and manager of its alternative fuel project.
He said the company now has to move forward with other projects in an attempt to make plant operations more environmentally sound.
A coalition of concerned citizens and environmental advocates applauded the decision that will have implications for environmental decision-making across the province. The ruling rejected the company’s attempt to shut down public hearings into the cement manufacturer’s controversial proposal to burn millions of kilograms of tires, plastics, bone meal and other waste in Lafarge’s cement kiln in Bath, Ontario.
The Court of Appeal rejected, without reasons, Lafarge’s attempt to appeal the Divisional Court’s decision of last June, which had dismissed last-ditch efforts by Lafarge to shut down an Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) hearing over the controversial proposal.
“We are delighted about this decision,” said Marlene Cashin, counsel at Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund), which represented the Loyalist Environmental Coalition. “In denying leave, the Court has ended Lafarge’s challenge and ensured that citizens across the province have access to environmental justice.”
The decision confirms the public’s right to participate fully in environmental decision-making. It requires the Ministry of the Environment to consider the cumulative environmental effects of issuing an approval before doing so, and to apply the precautionary principle to such decisions.
“We’re very happy that the Court of Appeal has decided that no further examination of this matter is needed” said Joe Castrilli, counsel for members of the Tragically Hip. “This decision should reform the manner in which the Ministry of Environment issues pollution licenses, and should ensure that the interests of all stakeholders are taken into account.”
“We can all breathe a little easier”, stated Waterkeeper and environmental lawyer Mark Mattson. “The courts have made it clear that the Ministry of the Environment must put more effort into reviewing licenses to pollute. This means more respect for public input and better consideration for the ecosystem.”
“This is a great day for the Bath community. The years of hard work and determination to protect our part of the waterfront forged a path for everyone in Ontario. Our knowledge and our expertise count. We have a seat at the table. I couldn’t be more pleased,” said Gord Downie, co-appellant and Trustee for Lake Ontario.
“This litigation has clearly highlighted the need for the Ministry of the Environment to change the way that it issues approvals in this province,” stated Rick Lindgren, counsel for Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and Gordon Downie. “Nevertheless, the Court’s decision enables concerned residents to protect the environment and to hold the Ministry accountable for issuing ill-conceived approvals.”
“This is a great day for the strengthening of environmental justice in Ontario” added Hugh Wilkins of Ecojustice.
Rick Lindgren of the Canadian Environmental Law Association represented Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and Gord Downie. Joseph Castrilli represented The Tragically Hip. Hugh Wilkins and Marlene Cashin of Ecojustice represented Loyalist Environmental Coalition.
For more information, please visit www.ecojustice.ca