The Most Important Environmental Stories of 2018

The good, the bad, the ugly, and the ridiculous from the past year

..So, without further ado, here are the major environmental stories of 2018, as curated by Sierra editors and the leadership of the Sierra Club….

Keep It in the Ground Movement Plugs Oil and Gas Pipelines


For several years now (at least since Bill McKibben wrote his now-canonical essay, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math”), grassroots environmentalists have been making the case that virtually any new fossil fuel development is incompatible with maintaining a stable climate, since we are rapidly burning through our “carbon budget.” This Keep It in the Ground movement has fought gas export terminalsdefeated coal export terminals, and waged pitched battles against the Bayou Bridge pipeline, the Line 3 pipeline, and, famously, the Dakota Access pipeline. Often the resistance takes the form of protests and rallies; sometimes it comes in the form of civil disobedience. And almost always there are some lawyers from the Sierra Club or Earthjustice or NRDC making arguments in court.

In 2018, some judges started to listen, and dealt a series of major setbacks to pipeline projects. MORE 

Court ruling to grant First Nations a much bigger cut of resources royalties in Ontario

Wiikwemkoong Chief Duke Peltier speaks to the Globe and Mail on June 21, 2018 in Toronto. GLENN LOWSON/FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Forty thousand members of 23 First Nations communities in Northern Ontario have been receiving $4 a person each year from the Crown for ceding rights over a resource-rich territory about the size of France under 1850 treaties.

The Indigenous groups filed a court challenge against the Crown, saying the $4 annuity did not reflect the spirit of the treaties. And now a judge – after an exhaustive examination of the history of the treaties – has ruled that the signatories intended that the annuities should grow to allow the First Nations to share the growth in revenues governments receive from resource companies in the territory.

The most significant news story of 2018: the ongoing Trans Mountain saga remains top of mind and critical for many people.

If you didn’t know, now you’ll know.

Image result for Grand chief Stewart Phillip saluted Marilyn Slett, Heiltsuk elected chief councillor,
On Oct. 10, 2018, Grand chief Stewart Phillip saluted Marilyn Slett, Heiltsuk elected chief councillor, after the Heiltsuk Nation filed a claim against the government and Kirby Corporation for damages caused by a devastating oil spill. Photo by Michael Ruffolo

A lot of historic moments with lasting impacts took place in British Columbia over the past year. First Nations communities celebrated groundbreaking court victories with national implications, won awards for clean energy leadership, and took reconciliation efforts into their own hands.

This National Observer series, First Nations Forward, is dedicated to shedding a light in what can feel like a dark era of increasing climate change, fake news, and divisive politics, by emphasizing the many stories of success and sovereignty taking place across the province. Every story of a trailblazing individual, Nation or collaboration tells a larger tale of resiliency, leadership and foresight that may be remembered for generations to come. MORE

Superior Court of Justice decision is a Historic Victory for First Nations

Court finds Constitutionally Protected Treaty Right to Resource Revenue Sharing.

(left to right) Wikwemikoong Ogimaa Duke Peltier, Wasauksing First Nation Chief Walter Tabobandung, Shawanaga First Nation Chief Wayne Pamajewon, Batchewana First Nation Chief Dean Sayers. photo courtesy RHT

168 years after signing the Robinson-Huron Treaty, the calls from former and current Anishinabek Chiefs for the Crown to fulfill its Treaty promise to share the resource revenue of the Treaty territory have finally been heard

“We are so pleased that the Court has heard us and agreed with us that the treaty was not a one-time transaction, but an ongoing promise to share the resource revenues in the Treaty territory, laying the foundation for a respectful and mutually beneficial co- existence. We have always been ready to negotiate a renewed treaty relationship and now, with this decision, we hope to be able to get that work underway.” MORE

Courts should not have to decide climate change policy

Canada shouldn’t wait for the courts to litigate climate action. Only collaborative policy-making will deliver the rapid and systemic changes we need.

wo years ago this month, Canada appeared to finally have a pan-Canadian climate plan. Although Canada came late to the game, almost 25 years after it signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCCC), and although the plan is imperfect, the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change represented a beginning capable of progressive improvement over time.

But that path now seems like a distant memory. The anti-carbon tax ideology that Maclean’s magazine branded “the resistance” (taking considerable flak for doing so) has sent us off in a new direction — one that will keep us mired in conflict and costly litigation. Climate policy-making in Canada has once again ground to a halt. Litigation as politics by other means is poised to take over. MORE

Mounties wrap up vote today to select a new labour union

The RCMP are the only major non-unionized police force in Canada

Mounties are marking a historic moment today in their fight to unionize for the first time in the institution’s 145-year history. RCMP members have until noon today to vote on whether they want the National Police Federation to represent them, but it could be months yet before they learn the results.

The Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board is overseeing the union certification vote. It has said the results will be kept under wraps until it rules on whether Quebec Mounties should have their own union. MORE


Hunting guide files lawsuit against province over B.C. grizzly hunt ban

Proposed class-action lawsuit claims hunting ban harmed thousands of people, not based on science

The operator of a guide outfitting company has filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against the British Columbia government over the ban on grizzly bear hunting.

Ron Fleming, owner of Love Bros. & Lee, is seeking compensation for all B.C. guide outfitting businesses allegedly harmed by the hunting ban. MORE


2nd camp set up to block pipeline company’s access to Wet’suwet’en land

B.C. judge granted a temporary injunction for access by Coastal GasLink on Friday

Freda Huson speaking to supporters outside the Prince George courthouse before a hearing last week regarding the injunction application made by Coastal GasLink. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

A second checkpoint has been put up on a remote B.C. forestry road to block construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, days after a court ordered that the first one must stop preventing the company from accessing the road and a bridge.

An interim injunction order from a B.C. court last Friday ordered the individuals at the Unist’ot’en camp, a self-described re-occupation of Wet’suwet’en land, to stop impeding Coastal GasLink from gaining access to the logging road and bridge it argues is on a critical path it needs to access as part of pipeline construction.

The pipeline is part of an estimated $40 billion natural gas project slated for construction in B.C. The nearly 700 km long pipeline is meant to transport natural gas from northeastern B.C. to a liquefied natural gas plant slated for construction in the north coast community of Kitimat.  MORE


Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation seeks to stop Syncrude tar sands expansion project

Chief Allan Adam (left) from the Athabasca Fort Chipewyan First Nation chats with Grand Chief Serge Simon from the Mohawks of Kanesatake at a Special Chiefs Assembly in Gatineau Que. on Dec. 8, 2016. Photo by Mike De Souza

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is seeking to block a major oilsands expansion project, adding another Indigenous legal challenge to the region’s resource exploitation.

In a filing to the province’s energy regulator, the First Nation asked to stop the expansion of Syncrude Canada Ltd’s Mildred Lake oilsands operation.

“We can hardly get a boat through the Delta, migratory birds don’t fly over, the fish are diseased, and our people are sick,” said Chief Allan Adam of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, fighting the expansion of Syncrude’s Mildred Lake project.

If approved, the expansion would add around 184,000 barrels of oil per day to Mildred Lake’s production. Hearings on the matter are to be held by the Alberta Energy Regulator in Fort McMurray from Jan. 22-Feb. 8, 2019. MORE

The Tar Sands: It devours our land

A historically willing participant in oilsands operations, the Fort McKay First Nation is taking the Alberta government to court over its failure to protect Moose Lake, a sacred site, from rampant industrial development

Surrounded on three sides by oilsands operations, the Fort McKay First Nation has benefited tremendously from industrial development — while also experiencing firsthand its environmental consequences.

While the nation has historically supported nearby operations, when Prosper Petroleum proposed a 10,000 barrel per day oilsands project near Moose Lake, an area of sacred cultural value for the people of Fort McKay, the community reached a tipping point. MORE