The U.S./Canada Flathead Energy/Water Dispute

The U.S./Canada Flathead Energy/Water Dispute by Allan Ingelson, Lincoln Mitchell and Sean Assie, May 20, 2009, Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary

  • The Flathead River flows from B.C. into Montana
  • Proposed coal and coalbed methane development along the Flathead River in B.C.
  • Downstream – wilderness areas and Glacier National Park, Montana
  • “The last uninhabited major watershed in Canada with unsurpassed water quality..the ESA listed bull trout is doing better in the Flathead than anywhere else in the region…crucial spawning grounds”
  • First B.C. CBM production in 2009 Canadian CBM production from “dry coals”
  • Significant uncertainty and risk to fisheries
  • … No one knows what the long term impacts will be
  • What are Canada’s legal obligations  to the downstream state?
    • Under emerging international environmental law Canada is obligated to avoid degradation of the river from coal mining and CBM operations
    • “A State owes at all times a duty to protect other States against injurious acts by individuals from within its jurisdiction.” Responsibility of States in International Law, 1928, p.80
  • 2. Which EIA process should be used to evaluate the mineral development impacts?
  • 3. In Canada how do the federal and provincial EIA regimes interact?
  • In light of the uncertain transboundary  impacts from coal mining and CBM development and a national park downstream– cumulative impacts need to be considered carefully [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:  Money secured to protect B.C. wilderness area  and B.C. gets $10 million windfall to protect Flathead River Valley ]

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