Court hears massive Ontario quarry should be stopped: Niagara Escarpment Plan in peril
 
Toronto, ON—Lawyers today sparred over the future of environmental protection for the Niagara Escarpment, which is part of Ontario’s Greenbelt. Walker Aggregates Inc. is proposing an enormous 42-million tonne quarry at the highest point of the Niagara Escarpment, near Collingwood.
 
“Ontarians find it hard to believe the Niagara Escarpment Commission must go to court to fight the Ontario Municipal Board to stop an enormous quarry in one of Ontario’s most protected areas,” said Sarah Winterton of Environmental Defence.
 
Today’s courtroom battle centres on a decision of the Joint Board that effectively ignored the Niagara Escarpment Plan (NEP), an internationally respected plan. Lawyers for the Niagara Escarpment Commission and Clearview Community Coalition argued that this is an error of law and will harm the environment.
 
A key question for the court will be deciding what is the higher law, theNiagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act (and NEP) or the weakerPlanning Act.
 
The Joint Board decision gives a free pass to Walker Aggregates to continue running trucks up and down the steep escarpment hill outside the quarry without a proper environmental assessment.
 
“There are a lot of politicians past and present that take great pride in decades of work to protect this beautiful part of Ontario. Governments of all political stripes worked to create the NEP, with its unique set of policies and principles,” said Ruth Grier, former Ontario Minister of the Environment and member of the Clearview Community Coalition. “Never once did we think it would be overturned by two members of the Ontario Municipal Board.” 
 
The court hearing is expected to last one full day, and will include arguments in favour of the quarry from the Township of Clearview and County of Simcoe. Walker Aggregates is controversially paying the legal fees of the municipalities.
 
In the interests of environmental conservation, legislators and environmentalists are beginning to develop and refine the concept of “net gain,” where industries can incur some environmental impacts provided they offset those impacts, and have an overall positive impact on the landscape. The judicial review poses a second critically important conservation question: Can this approach be applied to sensitive ecological features like forests, wetlands, wildlife habitat that cannot be replaced? 
 
“Clearly, net gain is not now a policy under the NEP, and should not be treated as such by the Joint Board or the courts,” said David Donnelly, Environmental Defence legal counsel.
 
About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.
 
About THE CLEARVIEW COMMUNITY COALITION (http://clearviewcommunitycoalition.com) The Clearview Community Coalition is a group of citizens who are concerned about the destruction of the Niagara Escarpment and the adverse effects of quarries on local communities.
 
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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
 
Naomi Carniol, Environmental Defence, 416-323-9521 ext. 258; 416-570-2878 (cell) ncarniol@environmentaldefence.ca
 
Ruth Grier, Clearview Community Coalition, (416) 259-1722, ruth.grier@bell.net