Will Environmental Tribunal Enforce Public Trust In Water?
by Dianne Saxe, Saxe Law Office, May 22 2013
Ecojustice has intervened in an appeal before Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal, hoping that they will enforce a public trust in water resources.
Nestle Canada Inc. (“Nestle”) runs Ontario’s largest water bottling operation. They pump groundwater from two different sets of wells in the Guelph area. Each well requires a Permit to Take Water (“PTTW”) from the Ministry of Environment (“MOE”) in order to operate.
Nestle recently had the PTTW for one of their wells renewed by the Ministry. The renewed permit contains new conditions that require reduced water takings during periods of summer drought1. Nestle appealed these conditions to the Environmental Review Tribunal (“ERT”).
Ecojustice intervened in the appeal on behalf of public interest groups and/or local citizens with a long history of opposing Nestle’s bottled water operations in the area – the Wellington Water Watchers (“WWW”) and the Council of Canadians (“CoC”).
While the Ministry of the Environment is the main party defending the conditions, they have agreed to a settlement of the appeal. Ecojustice is asking the ERT to continue the hearing, in order to prevent any settlement agreement from weakening the anti-drought conditions. Ecojustice argues that the principles of the public trust doctrine (“PTD”) provide an additional basis for upholding the original conditions.