The owner of a quarry near Shawnigan Lake is suing the Cowichan Valley Regional District over its attempts to prevent the storage of contaminated soil at the site.
Cobble Hill Holdings Ltd. has filed a claim in B.C. Supreme Court alleging the district unlawfully interfered with the company’s business.
The dispute dates to 2013 when the Ministry of Environment issued Cobble Hill Holdings a permit to receive and store up to 100,000 tonnes of contaminated soil a year at its Stebbings Road quarry.
The district and other parties appealed the decision, but the Environmental Appeal Board upheld the permit in 2015. The district then took the company to court, arguing that the quarry was operating as a landfill in contravention of a regional zoning bylaw.
The district won its case at the B.C. Supreme Court, but lost at the Court of Appeal, which concluded the quarry was operating as a mine and was therefore regulated by the provincial government rather than the regional district.
The Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear the district’s final appeal.
Cobble Hill Holdings claims in its lawsuit that the district knew or should have known that it had no authority to interfere in the quarry’s business and that its zoning bylaw was passed unlawfully.
The suit also claims that district representatives made false public statements and tried to deter potential customers from contracting with Cobble Hill’s quarry operation.
The claim says the district acted with malice in causing the company to spend money defending “spurious allegations and responding to asserted environmental problems which the [district] knew or ought to have known were incorrect, or was reckless as to the veracity of the allegations.”
None of the allegations has been proven in court and the district has three weeks to file a response.
Brian Carruthers, chief administrative officer for the district, declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday.
The claim seeks damages for lost revenue, unlawful interference with the company’s business and the district’s failure to act in good faith. It also seeks special damages for the cost of responding to unfounded allegations and falsehoods.
The company claims it lost about $354,000 a month during the time it was prevented from operating the site in 2016.
Meanwhile, the battle between the regional district and the company was overshadowed in February when the provincial government cancelled the company's permit to receive and store contaminated soil in the quarry.
The government claims the company failed to provide the province with adjusted financial security in the form of an irrevocable letter of credit. The company claims the decision was unjust and has filed a separate lawsuit against both the government and former environment minister Mary Polak.