Rod Northey is head of Gowling WLG's Practice Group for Environmental Law. He is in his 30th year of private practice in environmental law and certified by the Law Society of Ontario as a specialist in this field. His current practice focuses on regulatory approvals and strategies across the full range of approval regimes involving the environment — including environmental assessment, land use, endangered species, cultural heritage, energy, resource extraction, transportation, waste management, and water approvals.
Clients facing novel regulatory challenges – multiple regimes, conflicting standards - retain Rod for his innovative regulatory strategies. Current work includes cultural heritage legal work for the Town of Oakville before Ontario courts and tribunals regarding conservation of the Glen Abbey Golf Course, and federal regulatory issues for mining projects inside and outside Ontario.
His strategic work in environmental assessment is widely acknowledged. From August 2016 to March 2017, Rod was a member of the expert panel appointed by the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change to carry out a Canada-wide consultation and review of Canada’s environmental assessment process. Similarly, from May 2016 to May 2017, Rod was a member of the GTA West Advisory Panel appointed by the Ontario Minister of Transportation to conduct a strategic review of a major environmental assessment for future transportation infrastructure in the GTA West corridor.
Ongoing client work has Rod leading legal teams for several major environmental assessments in the transportation, energy and mining sectors across Ontario and in Nunavut:
- Halton Region and four area municipalities seeking the integration of Ontario land use standards within a federal environmental assessment panel review of a proposed major private sector intermodal transportation facility in Halton
- Kitikmeot Inuit Association, working with the Nunavut government, as co-proponents of a first-of-kind deep water port on the Arctic Ocean and all-season 230 km road across Nunavut to provide southern access to Canada’s highway network
- Henvey Inlet First Nation, co-owner of a 300 MW wind farm on its reserve lands, with exclusive responsibility to develop and implement novel environmental assessment, protection and permitting laws under the First Nations Land Management Act
- Marten Falls First Nation, working with the Province of Ontario, to carry out environmental assessments for new all-season roads within its traditional territory and Ontario’s Ring of Fire
As litigation counsel, Rod has been involved in dozens of tribunal and court appeals, including more than 40 reported environmental law decisions before federal and Ontario trial and appellate courts, and Ontario environmental and land use tribunals. His litigation experience includes acting as co-counsel for five Halton municipalities and Conservation Halton regarding federalism and environmental assessment issues raised by a proposed road-rail transfer facility, for the Town of Oakville in two appeals involving cultural and natural heritage now before the Ontario Court of Appeal, and for public interest applicants in an appeal before the same court regarding the applicability of an 1826 statute to green space in the City of Toronto. Past litigation includes acting for Suncor Energy Services through Ontario’s first renewable energy approval hearing, and leading the City of Burlington’s legal team for a 100-day resource extraction hearing on the Niagara Escarpment, including legal and expert issues in land use, hydrogeology, hydrology, endangered species, air quality, human health, agriculture and conservation biology.
Throughout his career, Rod has been active in environmental law reform. He was a member of the 2004 Ontario executive panel appointed by the Minister of the Environment to reform Ontario environmental assessment for green energy, transit, and waste management. He was also a member of the Ontario task force to develop the province's two-million-acre greenbelt. Rod has been retained by the federal government to deal with law reform on the precautionary principle, applying environmental assessment to Crown corporations. For several years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Rod provided advice and assistance to the then-Canadian International Development Agency on applying environmental assessment to projects outside Canada, including review of international and global assessment regimes and attendance at international discussions. He has also appeared before parliamentary and senate committees on the topics of environmental assessment and constitutional law.
Rod is an adjunct faculty member at Osgoode Hall Law School's Infrastructure Law LLM program for its course on environmental protection and regulatory conflicts. He is recognized by his peers in national and international listings, for environmental law, including Lexpert, Who’s Who Legal: The International Who’s Who of Business Lawyers and The Best Lawyers in Canada.
Rod is author of the Guide to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (LexisNexis Canada), published annually, as well as the 1995 Annotated Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and EARP Guidelines Order (Carswell). He is also author of law journal articles on the integration of environmental and planning law in Ontario infrastructure, federalism and environmental law, the role of municipalities in Canada’s energy strategies, and the fading role of alternatives in federal environmental assessment.