B.C. claims privilege on Kitimat report – Wendy Stueck (Globe and Mail – July 13, 2014)

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VANCOUVER — In an ongoing tussle over the Kitimat Airshed Study, lawyers representing two women in an Environmental Appeal Board case have asked that agency to force the province to turn over the study or explain its claim of cabinet privilege.

The study, which the province commissioned last year to weigh the impact of industrial emissions on the Kitimat Airshed, has yet to be publicly released, even though some groups interested in its conclusions – including the District of Kitimat – had expected to see it before the end of June.

Now, the report is the subject of a tug-of-war between the province and appellants in the EAB case, which concerns sulphur dioxide emissions from the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter in Kitimat. The province says it received a draft of the Kitimat Airshed Report in March and that it is “now part of discussions around cleanest LNG requirements” and will be released later this year. For now, however, the government says the report is being discussed by cabinet and subject to Crown privilege.

Emily Toews and Elisabeth Stannus – the appellants in the EAB case – would like to see the report now, maintaining it would provide the most up-to-date information about industrial emissions in Kitimat.

The two women, both Kitimat residents, have asked the EAB to overturn a 2013 decision that authorized increased sulphur dioxide emissions from Rio Tinto Alcan’s Kitimat smelter.

The smelter, which began operating in 1954, is undergoing a $3.3-billion upgrade that will boost smelting capacity and cut emissions of some pollutants, but increase the amount of sulphur dioxide coming from the facility by more than 50 per cent.

Ms. Toews and Ms Stannus are concerned about the potential health and environmental impacts of the increased sulphur dioxide emissions and, as part of their case, have been trying to obtain the Kitimat Airshed Study. In recent correspondence with the women’s lawyers, the province said the report was subject to Crown privilege.

On Friday, lawyers for the two women filed an application seeking to have the EAB require the province to hand over the report.

Current information before the EAB “suggests that the Kitimat Airshed Study is the most current, complete and possibly ‘best’ evidence as to several of the facts and issues central to this appeal,” the application states.

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