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B.C. Ecological Appeal Board Rejects Precautionary Principle towards “Cautious Approach”

B.C. Ecological Appeal Board Rejects Precautionary Principle towards “Cautious Approach”

Inside a recent decision upholding an aura permit amendment issued to Rio Tinto Alcan Corporation. (Rio Tinto) for that growth of its smelter in Kitimat, the Bc Ecological Appeal Board (Board) ruled on numerous key concepts relevant towards the assessment of waste permit applications through the B.C. Secretary of state for Atmosphere (Ministry) underneath the Ecological Management Act (EMA). Of particular note, the Board rejected the use of the precautionary principle towards a less stringent “cautious approach”, and confirmed the Ministry isn’t needed to incorporate cumulative effects in the thought on permit applications.

This decision causes it to be obvious that rigorous and scientifically defensible technical research into the impact of suggested emissions on human health insurance and the atmosphere is crucial to effective permit applications. However, the determination that some impacts will occur isn’t a bar to acquiring a permit or amendment, provided it may be proven that such impacts are mitigated in a fashion that will come across the Board’s standard of the “cautious approach” to become used by the Ministry.


Talking about past decisions from the Board in addition to decisions from the Top Court of Canada and also the high courts of New zealand and australia, the Board held that neither the precautionary principle nor a “precautionary approach” affect permitting decisions through the Ministry underneath the EMA. Rather, the Board held that the “cautious approach involving an extensive technical research into the potential harm the suggested emissions could cause to human health insurance and the environment” ought to be adopted through the Ministry when assessing permit applications underneath the EMA.

The Board also held the EMA can’t be construed as excluding any risk to public natural sources or even the atmosphere, and rejected the concept that the Ministry are only able to approve permits in circumstance high could be zero risk towards the atmosphere. The Board known previous decisions that has held that potential harm from emissions under waste discharge permits ought to be controlled, ameliorated and, where possible, eliminated, but continued to explain that perils of harm or damage won’t be eliminated. It is because the permitting provisions from the EMA are particularly meant to permit the emission of waste in to the atmosphere, and “waste” by its very definition, is material that is capable of doing causing harm.

The Board also figured that the EMA doesn’t, specifically or impliedly, require Ministry to think about the cumulative results of emissions using their company facilities.


As the Board upheld the Rio Tinto permit amendments within their whole, additionally, it made some strategies for a regional health study in Kitimat and the introduction of any adverse health advisory system for that Kitimat region to alert residents to problems with quality of air that could impact their own health. The Board’s recommendations aren’t binding around the Ministry, therefore it remains seen if they’ll be applied, therefore, what effect this can dress in future industrial development in the area.


This decision will help to entities trying to get new or amended waste discharge permits, because the Board also made many other findings concerning the exercise from the Ministry’s discretion and also the application. Included in this are the connection between policy and also the discretion from the Ministry in thinking about permits the scope of reasons obtain in permitting decisions and also the process for public consultation for major permit amendments.


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