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Great Lakes Article:

Environmentalists feel ‘betrayal’ as A-G to intervene in appeal of dump
By Annette Phillips
The Kingston-Whig Standard

Local News - The Ontario government is being accused of sneaking into a legal case it promised to avoid a week ago.

"There’s a sense of frustration and even a sense of betrayal," said Richard Lindgren, the Canadian Environmental Law Association lawyer who represents citizens opposed to expansion of a Napanee-area landfill site.

"There was a promise to withdraw from the case and now it looks like the government is entering the litigation through the back door."

Until last week, Canadian Waste Services Inc. and the Ontario government had been pursuing a joint appeal of a court decision that ordered broader terms of reference in the environmental assessment stage of a planned expansion of the dump.

Last week, Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky, whose Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington riding includes the site, signed an order that ended the government’s participation in the appeal. Canadian Waste Services vowed to continue with the appeal on its own.

At stake is the sixfold expansion of the former Richmond Landfill site, which Canadian Waste says is a critical component in its ability to handle the bulk of Ontario’s garbage in the future. Kingston’s trash is trucked there.

If the appeal fails, the expansion will be buried under another long and costly set of studies that could ultimately render the entire project unfeasible.

Many Napanee-area residents have opposed the expansion. Dombrowsky, along with Premier Dalton McGuinty, campaigned on a promise of withdrawing the government’s appeal.

On Tuesday, Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General notified Lindgren that it would intervene in the court case.

Lindgren said his clients - Tyendinaga Township residents and the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte - see no difference between the Attorney General and the Ministry of the Environment and believe the government has gone back on its word.

Citizens also question why the government is pursuing the same legal issues through the former ministry that it said it wouldn’t argue through the latter.

"This intervention has a very peculiar odour," Lindgren told The Whig-Standard.

Dombrowsky, in an interview yesterday, said intervening in the court case is different from fighting an appeal.

The Attorney General is arguing points of law that have nothing to do with the facts of the environmental assessment, on which the original legal appeal was based, the minister said.

"The Ministry of the Environment will not seek to appeal this decision. We have kept our promise," Dombrowsky told The Whig.

The minister has also launched a review of the Environmental Assessment Act, which sets out the steps to be taken to protect the environment when roads, sewer pipes and industries are built.

Environmental assessments have been criticized as being too complicated and cumbersome for private companies to follow.

"The challenge is to strike a balance to ensure all aspects of [the environment] are being considered and yet ensure development can be completed in a timely fashion," Dombrowsky said.

Attorney General Michael Bryant didn’t respond to a request for an interview yesterday because he doesn’t discuss matters that are before the courts, said Brendan Crawley, a ministry spokesman.

Nonetheless, the government’s intervention in the Richmond landfill case isn’t unusual, Crawley said.

The government routinely intervenes in court cases where the outcome could have widespread implications, he added.

"While the appeal has been abandoned by the minister of the environment, there are a few outstanding legal issues we feel should be addressed."

In the landfill case, the appeal will seek to clarify legal issues surrounding ministerial discretion and to determine whether the authority of a minister exceeds the authority of the court.

The Attorney General is intervening on a piece of legislation - the Environmental Assessment Act - over which the Minister of the Environment has sole authority, Lindgren said.

"It seems very strange and completely unprecedented."

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