Canadian Consulting Engineer

B.C. does about-turn on environmental assessments

Just after it passed two Orders in Council exempting sweet natural gas processing plants and all-season ski resorts from environmental assessment requirements, the B.C. government has backed down.

April 23, 2014   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Just after it passed two Orders in Council exempting sweet natural gas processing plants and all-season ski resorts from environmental assessment requirements, the B.C. government has backed down.

First Nations and the West Coast Environmental Law Association were outraged when the province quietly passed two Orders in Council on Monday, April 14. According to the association, the Orders “were made without public consultation and despite widespread concern about the social and environmental effects of both industries.”

The government said that its intention in exempting the two types of projects from environmental assessments was to avoid duplication with environmental assessment processes required by the Ministry of Forests and Lands.

Upset that they had not been consulted over the exemptions, First Nations drummed government and industry people out of a meeting at an LNG conference in Fort Nelson on Wednesday, April 16. The incident followed an “impassioned” speech from Fort Nelson Chief Sharleen Gale.

But the same day CBC News reported a “stunning about-face” by B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak, saying that the government had rescinded the environmental assessment exemption. In a written statement Polak had acknowledged that the First Nations weren’t adequately consulted.

The West Coast Environmental Law Association said in statement that the province’s move to exempt the two contentious types of development was a “weakening of BC environmental assessment laws,” and saw a link with moves by the federal government. “This week’s weakening of B.C. Environmental assessment laws,” said the association’s press release, “comes on the heels of the repeal and replacement of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act with a new act that is widely considered weaker and less comprehensive.”

On April 12, residents of Kitimat, B.C. voted against a proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and oil storage terminal in their city. The non-binding plebiscite resulted in a vote of 58.4% against, and 41.6% for the multi-billion dollar project.

To read the CBC report of April 16, click here.


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