A very interesting judicial ruling comes to us from Canada’s most populous province. Lafarge Canada had filed an application with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment to use “alternative fuels” to power their cement manufacturing facility in Bath, Ontario. The “fuels” in this case consisted of used tires, shredded solid waste, meat and bone meal. The application was granted by the Ministry but an appeal of the decision to the province’s Environmental Review Tribunal was filed by local community groups opposed to the use of such fuels. A recent account in Solid Waste and Recycling explains the decision.
Lafarge Canada and the Ministry of the Environment has requested a judicial review of the appeal request, on the basis that it had no merit and should be dismissed. The judge hearing the case sided with the community groups on every issue. While only a decision to allow the appeal to proceed, this ruling will nonetheless have a significant impact on siting new waste facilities in Ontario; particularly because of the Court’s decision to apply the “precautionary approach” in reviewing the cumulative environmental impacts of a facility and its operations.
The judge felt that the appeal made on potential environmental impacts had a merit, and that “no reasonable person” could ignore these impacts. With the court ruling that the use of the precautionary approach, which essentially says that until something can be classified as completely safe (through scientific study, etc) it should be deemed unsafe and avoided, in evaluating such a facility is legitimate and necessary, a significant hurdle has now been placed in front of any facility with real or perceived environmental impacts to now overcome. It will be interesting to see if the Environmental Review Tribunal agrees.
A recent account in Solid Waste and Recycling explains the decision.