Principle 4

We favour court actions based on the common law of nuisance, trespass, and riparian rights to empower individuals to protect themselves from environmental harm. We do not believe that governments should have the discretion to negotiate with polluters, or with other parties, to override traditional common law protections.

The Principle in Practice: 

  • Citizens have long used their common-law property rights to protect their environment against corporate and government polluters. The government’s response: to disempower the populace by authorizing pollution that property rights would have prevented, and even to pass laws overriding court decisions against polluters – all on the grounds that a greater, so-called national interest required the polluting activities. With the publication of Property Rights in the Defence of Nature, with chapters about property rights in 13 other books, with articles in the popular press, and with presentations to conferences and classrooms in five countries, Environment Probe has worked tirelessly to restore property rights, so that individuals and communities will become empowered with means to protect the environment.
  • Canada’s export credit agency, Export Development Canada, is legally immune from judicial review of environmental damage caused by its loans and from disclosing its use of Canadian tax dollars, thereby forcing taxpayers to become unwilling investors in environmentally egregious and risky projects like the nuclear power stations in Romania, dams in Chile, and gold mines in Kyrgyzstan. Probe International took this case to a Senate Committee during hearings into EDC’s governing legislation, leading to an unprecedented Parliamentary debate.

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