• Rolf Bettner on behalf of Haida Gwaii Marine Resources Group Association v. Director, Environmental Management Act

    Decision Date:
    File Numbers:
    Decision Numbers:
    Third Party:
    Husby Forest Products Ltd., Third Party


    Decision Date: March 20, 2006

    Panel: Alan Andison

    Keywords: Environmental Management Act – ss.6 and 14; Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation – s. 2; controlled open burning; dry land log sort; environmental risk assessment

    Rolf Bettner, on behalf of Haida Gwaii Marine Resource Group Association, appealed the issuance of a permit to Husby Forest Products Ltd. (“Husby”), by the Director, Environmental Management Act, authorizing Husby to discharge air contaminants to the air and refuse to land, from the controlled open burning of log sort debris and landfilling of certain materials at a dry land log sort located on Graham Island, Queen Charlotte Islands (also known as Haida Gwaii), British Columbia.

    The Appellant asked the Board to reverse the decision to issue the permit.  Alternatively, the Appellant asks the Board to send the matter back to the Director with certain directions.

    The Appellant submitted that the open burning of the materials would release toxins, such as dioxins and furans, which would cause detrimental environmental impact.  The Appellant also submitted that the director failed to properly consider Ministry Policies and Canada’s commitments under the Kyoto Accord and failed to obtain independent scientific research regarding the effects of wood waste burning.  The Appellant further argued that the Director did not follow the precautionary principle and that Husby failed to meet its obligation as a Third Party to comply with reasonable requests for document disclosure made by the Appellant.

    The Board determined that the legislature’s approach to regulating wood waste burning may be characterized as one of managing and minimizing the potential risks, rather than broadly prohibiting the activity.  This indicates that the legislature views wood waste burning is an activity that poses relatively low risks to human health and the environment, as long as it is properly managed.

    The Board concluded that there is no legal basis to engage the precautionary principle in this case, and that the proposed open burning is at the low end of the spectrum in terms of potential risks to human health or the environment.  In particular, the Board noted that the burning takes place on a remote location, where the only people who may be affected are occasional recreationists who could see the smoke plume, and that the burning involves a relatively small volume of wood waste which is burned over a few days each year.

    The Board determined that the Appellant provided no evidence that the burning of wood waste under the permit will produce dioxins or furans.  The Board found that, although the Director may not have considered the potential risks associated with the emission of dioxins and furans, the Director relied on adequate information in all other respects.

    The Board found that the Kyoto Accord had little relevance in this case, since the burning in question is not related to permanent deforestation.

    The Board found that Husby was under no legal obligation to comply with the Appellant’s request for document disclosure in the absence of a summons, and that its failure to disclose information did not prejudice the Appellant’s ability to argue its case or respond to the Director’s case.

    Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.