In addition to seeing Canada assume the chair of the Arctic
Council for the next two years, the recent Arctic Council's
Ministerial Meeting at Kiruna, Sweden, adopted an important legal
text, the "Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution
Preparedness and Response in the Arctic". This is the second
major international agreement that has been developed under Arctic
Council auspices, the first being the Search and Rescue Agreement
concluded at Nuuk, Greenland, in 2011.
The Marine Oil Pollution Agreement, signed on May 15, 2013, aims
to strengthen cooperation, coordination and mutual assistance on
oil pollution preparedness and response among the eight Arctic
Council Member States. It applies to defined waters in each of
those States. In Canada's case, the Agreement applies to marine
areas above 60 degrees North. Each State Party is required to
maintain a national system for responding to oil pollution
incidents, including a national contingency plan providing for
organizational relationship of the various bodies involved (public
or private), taking account of relevant laws and guidelines. The
Parties must establish a minimum level of pre-positioned oil spill
combating equipment; a program of exercises for oil pollution
response organizations and the training or relevant personnel;
plans and communications capabilities for responding to an oil
pollution incident; and a mechanism or arrangement to coordinate
the response. Each national response system must designate the
competent national authority responsible for preparedness and
response; a national 24-hour operation contact point responsible
for receiving and transmitting oil pollution reports; and an
authority entitled to act on behalf of the party to request
assistance or decide to render it if requested.
There are provisions on notification to be given by Parties on
receipt of information about oil pollution or possible oil
pollution, including an assessment of the incident and its possible
consequences, and action the Parties have taken or intend to take
in response. Monitoring is required, in order to identify oil
pollution incidents and facilitate efficient and timely response
operations, and to minimize adverse environmental impacts. Parties
are permitted to request assistance from one another to respond to
such incidents and are required to cooperate in providing
assistance (advice, technical support, equipment or personnel). The
movement of ships, aircraft and other modes of transportation
engaged in responding to oil pollution incidents or in transporting
personnel, cargoes, materials and equipment required for that
purpose, into, through and out of the territory of each Party, must
be facilitated. The Agreement lays down principles dealing with the
reimbursement of costs of assistance by State Parties that request
such assistance and those who provide it on their own initiative.
These principles are subject to any applicable international
agreements and national law, especially on liability and
compensation for oil pollution damage. Parties may also cooperate
with non-Parties where doing so contributes to activities envisaged
in the Agreement.
The Agreement also calls for Parties to cooperate and exchange
information serving to improve the effectiveness of oil pollution
preparedness and response operations and to make such information
publicly available. Joint exercises and training are also
encouraged. Operational Guidelines are to be developed on specific
matters, to assist in implementing the Agreement, and the Parties
are required to meet periodically to review issues related to its
This Agreement will hopefully serve to better manage commercial
marine traffic and the response to a spill in the fragile
environment. The Agreement's passage is timely: even in the few
short months since its adoption, commercial navigation in the
Arctic has made significant progress. This September, the
"Yong Sheng" became the first Chinese commercial vessel
to reach Europe via the Northern Sea Route. The trip, completed in
33 days, is a marked reduction over the 48 days the same journey
would typically take via the Suez Canal. Given that estimates place
savings by shipping through the Arctic at between $60-120 billion
annually, there is good reason to suspect that Chinese and other
exporters in Asia will be increasingly considering the Arctic sea
routes in the coming years.
It is relatively common knowledge that the government has a "duty to consult" aboriginal groups when undertaking actions or making decisions that could adversely affect aboriginal rights, aboriginal title and treaty rights.
On April 5, 2017, Environment and Climate Change Canada released the report of an external Expert Panel that was established in August 2016 to review the scope and process of federal environmental assessments under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.
40 to 60 years may be too old when determining whether to extend a limitation period for a negligence-based environmental contamination claim, the court recently ruled in Brookfield Residential (Alberta) LP (Carma Developers LP) v Imperial Oil Limited, 2017 ABQB 218 [Brookfield].
Our April 7 post on the report of the Expert Panel reviewing federal environmental assessment processes noted that the report contains recommendations for greater inclusion of Indigenous peoples in federal environmental assessment processes.
Over the past week, the Project Law Blog has been discussing the recommendations set out by the Expert Panel in its report entitled Building Common Ground – A New Vision for Impact Assessment in Canada, The Final Report of the Expert Panel for the Review of Environmental Assessment Processes.
On April 5, 2017 the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change received her report from an expert panel of four, comprised of three lawyers with significant environmental and aboriginal law experience as well as a retired senior executive of a resource company.
On April 5, 2017, an Expert Panel established by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (the "Panel") released its report, Building Common Ground – A New Vision for Impact Assessment in Canada, The Final Report of the Expert Panel for the Review of Environmental Assessment Processes (the "Report").
Last week we summarized the recommendations set out by the Expert Panel established by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change in its report entitled Building Common Ground – A New Vision for Impact Assessment in Canada, The Final Report of the Expert Panel for the Review of Environmental Assessment Processes.
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