To Use Discretion or Follow Procedure and Guidelines? The Margaree Environmental Association appears for the second (and last) day in court to appeal the environment minister’s decision to allow oil drilling near Lake Ainslie

To Use Discretion or Follow Procedure and Guidelines? The Margaree Environmental Association appears for the second (and last) day in court to appeal the environment minister’s decision to allow oil drilling near Lake Ainslie by Natascia L., July 17, 2012, Halifax Media Co-op
Crown attorney Aleta Cromwell was the first to take the stand as she continued her case begun June 27 in defense of the environment minister’s decision to reject MEA’s appeal of a permit granted to Petroworth Resources Inc. She reiterated her stance that the standard of review for the minister’s decision should be reasonableness as opposed to correctness. She added that the minister’s reasonableness should be analyzed within the context of all the factors relating to the permit approval and subsequent appeal rejection; in other words, that he was attempting to balance the interests of human health, environmental protection and socioeconomic benefit to the province as per his mandate stated in the Nova Scotia Environment Act. As such, Cromwell argued that the MEA was only deserving of a low level of procedural fairness (governing how the group is involved and to what degree) in dealing with the appeal, which she said the minister delivered on. The group was allowed to submit any records it wanted. She said the minister ensured adequate communication between the environment department and the MEA: specifically, that a site inspector met with a member of the MEA, the department responded to the concerned letters of residents, and it held consultations with the local Mi’kmaq community. Appellant Derek Simon didn’t buy it. He pointed out that the consultation with the Mi’kmaq people is a constitutional requirement. “It has nothing to do with the minister’s duty to discharge procedural fairness to the public at large,” he said. Simon added that he couldn’t find any evidence that the environment department responded to the public’s concerns, outside of those voiced by the Mi’kmaq community, and as a result changed the terms of the permit approval. One such concern is a brook passing close by the proposed drilling site and whether it should be defined as a watercourse by Environment Act standards. … Petroworth has announced it will start drilling before Labour Day. The MEA wants to avoid having to file an injunction against the company should the activity begin before MacAdam returns with a decision.

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