With the proliferation of renewable energy projects around the North comes an influx of technical and environmental information that can be difficult to navigate. Graystone Environmental wants to help with that.
Based in Sault Ste. Marie and Ottawa, Graystone Environmental is a multidisciplinary environmental firm offering legal counsel alongside technical services and policy advice. The company specializes in climate change law and policy, green buildings, community sustainability, and civil lawsuits and regulatory environmental defences.
Owner Roxie Graystone, who grew up in the Sault, earned his environmental engineering degree from the University of Guelph, and followed it up with a law degree at Queen’s University. In 2009, he brought together the two streams of his educational background in one service, which he said allows him to bring a more holistic approach to clients seeking legal and technical expertise on environmental issues.
Instead of enlisting the services of an engineer and then seeking legal advice, Graystone provides the complementary services in one package. His education and experience—he’s worked in municipal construction, water filtration, provincial prosecution, and with a national policy think-tank—enable him to help his clients understand how it all works together.
“Environmental law is the big driver here,” Graystone said. “As it gets more complex, it’s a little more difficult for the client to mesh the two sides together. So in some instances it’s beneficial to handle both sets of files for the client and try to translate what the end game is for them.”
Graystone has also earned his certification from the Canadian Environmental Certification Approvals Board as an ECO Canada Environmental Professional, a designation usually reserved for those working in areas such as environmental protection, resource management, and environmental sustainability. He’s the only lawyer in private practice with the designation.
His practice is focused on Northern and eastern Ontario. With the influx of microFIT projects across the province, Graystone said these days he’s dealing almost exclusively with legal issues related to projects under the program.
Because serving such a niche market, Graystone has the flexibility to pick and choose the files he wants to take on. It also allows him to customize the approach to his client’s needs.
“If someone’s just looking for an environmental lawyer to do a simplistic type of litigation, there’s usually no need for a guy like me,” he said. “But to the extent that you’re dealing with ministry officials, or you’re dealing with contamination scenarios then I’m a very unique skill set to bring to the table.”
As interest in alternative energy increases, Graystone anticipates an increase in the need for this type of service. Within the last 10 years, there’s been an increase in the number of lawyers who have predicted this trend and now bring with them technical, real-world expertise in order to be able to provide the best advice to clients.
“It’s more a transition away from just going to the consulting or the engineering firm to get compliance with a regulation, or to get an approval,” Graystone said. “Now, you almost need the lawyer in there to navigate the regulation in order to ensure the consultant’s following the regulations to the T.”
With Sault Ste. Marie at the centre of the second largest freshwater source in the world, and billing itself as the alternative energy capital of North America, Graystone said the city is strategically located, geographically and politically, to benefit from the coming increase.