The Role of Property Rights in Protecting Water Quality (Revisited)

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A new book on water management features a chapter by Elizabeth Brubaker on the role of property rights in protecting water quality. L’eau entre réglementation et marché, published in France, looks at innovative approaches to managing water quantity and quality and explores market mechanisms that may be more effective and less costly than traditional regulations. Continue reading

Throne Speech promises polluter-pay system

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To protect local communities and the environment from oil spills and other risks, the federal government is promising to enshrine the polluter-pay system into law. It is also promising to increase the required liability insurance for companies operating offshore, pipeline operators, and railways. Continue reading

New liability limits for nuclear power and oil: Better, but not good enough

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In June, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver announced that the federal government will increase the liability limits for the operators of nuclear power plants and for oil companies drilling in Atlantic and Arctic waters. The minister explained that the changes are consistent with the polluter pays principle. But a government that is truly committed to the polluter pays principle would not simply raise caps on liability – it would remove them entirely. Continue reading

Water Quality Trading in Ontario

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This paper, by Richard McNeil, explores Water Quality Trading (WQT) as a complement to the traditional regulatory approach to reducing water pollution. It examines the theory behind WQT, reviews common practices where trading has been introduced, and identifies principles for effective programs. It presents two Ontario case studies: the South Nation River watershed, where WQT has been a success, and the Lake Simcoe watershed, where WQT is currently being considered. Continue reading

EBI updates Citizens Guide

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EBI has updated a key section of its Citizens Guide to Environmental Investigation and Private Prosecution. The online guide now includes the latest provincial and federal objectives, guidelines, and standards for water quality, sediment quality, and soil quality. Continue reading

Environment Commissioner targets environmental liability limits

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Canada’s outgoing Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development has used his final report to Parliament to call attention to policies that limit the financial exposure of potential polluters. His recommendations to update liability limits don’t go far enough. Continue reading

Canadians must start paying more for water: Conference Board

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In its report card on Canada’s environmental performance, the Conference Board of Canada assigns a “C” for water withdrawals, ranking the country 15 out of 16 in the developed world. It attributes Canada’s excessive withdrawals in part to “water pricing that does not promote efficiency.” Continue reading

Undue influence?

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A new Polaris Institute report documents a “staggering” rate of lobbying by Canada’s petroleum industry. Do environmentalists and other concerned citizens stand a chance? Continue reading

Take back the environment!

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In the last year, we have witnessed an unprecedented roll-back of environmental regulation across Canada. Federal and provincial governments alike have reduced their oversight of polluting industries and weakened citizens’ rights to protect themselves and their environment. The systematic weakening of environmental regulation has created a vacuum that needs to be filled. But we don’t simply need new regulations. We need a better process – one that returns environmental protection to affected citizens. Continue reading

Can public utilities be accountable?

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Manitoba regulators have charged Winnipeg for polluting the Red River and for failing to report the pollution. In explaining the decision to prosecute, the province cited the need for accountability. But if the city can pass fines along to taxpayers or water customers, is it really accountable for its errors? Continue reading

Private insurance reduces environmental accidents

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The current edition of Regulation magazine has an interesting article about the role of legal liability in protecting the environment. The authors document the decline in leaks from underground fuel tanks when gas stations are required to carry private clean-up and liability insurance. The price structure for such insurance, they explain, “gives tank owners economic incentives to invest in equipment that reduces the chance of accidental fuel tank leaks.” Continue reading

Holding Frackers Accountable for Groundwater Pollution: An Analysis of Canada’s Liability Regimes for Hydraulic Fracturing

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This paper, by Adam Shedletzky, focuses on the legal provisions governing groundwater pollution due to fracking for shale gas. It examines the liability regimes (statutory and common-law) in Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta. It concludes with recommendations for strengthening the regulatory regime to enhance frackers’ incentives to take care and to ensure that those who are adversely affected by fracking can be “made whole.” Continue reading

Debunking the myth of public-sector accountability

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Those who advocate purely public water and sewage utilities warn that private financing and operation impede transparency, diminish accountability, and undermine government regulation. They have it backwards: Public utilities have repeatedly shown themselves to be un-transparent and un-accountable. Continue reading

Environmental assessments don’t protect the environment: Bruce Pardy

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Last week, as most environmentalists bemoaned the federal government’s decision to streamline environmental assessments, one expert shed no tears. Bruce Pardy, professor of environmental law at Queen’s University and member of Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal, told CBC Radio that “environmental assessment is not a great way to protect the environment.” Continue reading

Make polluters pay! Back off government!

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In this article in the C2C Journal, Elizabeth Brubaker reviews recent court cases against polluters, large and small, demonstrating that common-law property rights remain powerful tools for environmental protection. But courts are hamstrung when governments authorize pollution. Only when governments don’t stand in the way can people use their property rights to shield themselves from harm. Continue reading

Poorly performing Cdn water systems endangering public health, environment

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Eric Laganis writes in EcoLog about Elizabeth Brubaker’s report, A Bridge Over Troubled Waters: Alternative Financing and Delivery of Water and Wastewater Services. He reviews the problems facing Canada’s drinking water and wastewater systems and the solutions proposed in the report. Continue reading

Presentation to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development

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RJ Smith, from the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington DC, tells Canadian law-makers about the US experience with endangered species legislation: "From a public policy perspective, the US Endangered Species Act has been a failure — a complete and unmitigated disaster. If one had deliberately set out to create a law that would have harmed wildlife, destroyed habitat, and discouraged private landowners from protecting wildlife on their own lands, it would have been difficult to surpass the US Endangered Species Act. The ESA is causing tremendous harm to many of the very species it was designed to protect."

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The Role of Property Rights in Protecting Water Quality

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This paper, published in Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines, was prepared for Property Rights and Environment, an international conference organised by Centre d’Analyse Economique in June 1996. In it, Elizabeth Brubaker reviews the ways in which Canadians have used common-law property rights to protect water quality and chronicles governments’ tendencies to replace the common law with regulations that make it more difficult for individuals to protect waters.

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Turning free trade to the environment’s advantage

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Whether you voted for or against the free trade deal, now that free trade is a reality it’s incumbent upon all of us who care about the environment to do everything we can to make the deal work for us. The next 60 months – during which our government will be back at the negotiating table to hammer out the meaning of subsidy – will be decisive in our environment’s future: These negotiations will determine whether or not our forests are spared, whether we can continue to subsidize environmentally destructive coal and nuclear plants, whether free trade means fair trade or whether it means an acceleration of the rape and pillage policies of the past.

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