Guide shows how to attack polluters
by Sue Yanagisawa, Whig-Standard Staff Writer
|For all the people who are frustrated by environmental pollution, believe that the regulators aren’t getting the job done and aren’t sure what to do, the Environmental Bureau of Investigation has created a guide.
The bureau was created three years ago after Janet Fletcher, a local woman with no specialized scientific background, took the City of Kingston to court over pollution at Belle Park and won.
Energy Probe Research Foundation subsequently provided seed money to create the bureau, which investigates and sometimes prosecutes environmental crimes. Fletcher was one of its founding members.
Now, the bureau has created The Citizen’s Guide to Environmental Investigation and Private Prosecution, a kind of whistle-blowers’ manual to teach ordinary citizens how to go after polluters – on their own if necessary.
The guide, which the bureau plans to sell at cost for $15, explains how to collect documentary evidence and physical samples. It tries to assist people in comparing laboratory results with pollution regulations. It describes how to make a formal complaint to government regulators. It also explains how toget the attention of the media, how to approach experts for help and, if all else fails, how to launch a private prosecution.
INVOLVED IN MAJOR CASES
The bureau is currently involved in three major pollution cases in Ontario. It initiated the case against the Government of Ontario over its handling of the Deloro Mine, north of Belleville. The prosecution was subsequently taken over by the Attorney General on behalf of the Crown and the case is still before the courts.
The bureau is also involved in prosecuting charges over pollution in Hamilton’s Red Hill Creek and it’s still involved in the Belle Park case in Kingston, which is awaiting a court date for the city’s appeal of its convictions.
The Citizen’s Guide was written by Tom Adams, an investigator with the bureau and the executive director of Energy Probe; Myriam Beaulne, a former staff biologist with the bureau; and lawyer Mark Mattson, who, in addition to being the bureau’s executive director and the Energy Probe Research Foundation’s lawyer, has roots in Kingston.
Fletcher and Lynda Lukasik, who initiated the private prosecution in Hamilton, are both credited as major contributors to the book. Sierra Legal Defence Fund lawyers Doug Chapman and David Boyd and biologist John Werring are cited as having had a significant impact on the book’s development.
The bureau has investigated dozens of contaminated sites since it was created in 1997, but Fletcher said it’s not always easy to keep up with requests for help. That’s part of the reason for creating a book, she explained. “If we can’t afford to get to them, we can afford to get our material to them.”
In a release sent out by the bureau, Fletcher is quoted as saying she believes “there are thousands of volunteer environmental investigators facing local problems that they may have unique knowledge of, just waiting for direction on how to help.
“This book is directed at them.”
Contacted at her home, Fletcher said she doesn’t believe her willingness to challenge City Hall over the environment is unique.
“It just takes the right issue at the right time,” she said.
For reasons of cost, only 50 copies of The Citizen’s Guide to Environmental Investigation and Private Prosecution were produced in the first print run, according to Fletcher.
If there’s a demand, however, the bureau plans to print more copies.