Thursday, July 7, 2011

BC Environmental Assessment Office

I have been a fan of the BC Environmental Assessment Office for years.   I have dealt with many of the staff of the years and been directly and indirectly involved with Environmental Assessments since 1996.  

Most people really have no understanding of how the EA process works.   It is not quasi judicial process that weighs the evidence and then pronounces a yes or no.   It is an iterative process in which environmental concerns are raised and the EAO works with public, First Nations and proponent to develop the mitigation plans for any and all impacts of the project.    As a process it actually works really well.  

The problem is that there process is not one in which a No is the final answer.   What happens instead is that projects that can not meet the mitigation requirements end up dropping out of the process explicitly or implicitly.  

Today the news comes out that I had worried might be the case, the EAO has not been checking to see if companies have been complying with the requirements of their environmental assessments.  I sort of suspected this was the case but life is busy and I never followed up it.    The same situation applies to the higher level plans that exist in this province.   I do not think anyone is actively tasked with ensuring compliance with the LRMPs and other plans.

When BC had the Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management, there was a specific ministry with the task of ensuring compliance with the land use plans and environmental assessments.   I know many people flipped out that we had MSRM and not specific Ministry of the Environment, but MSRM was the one and only time in BC we really had a single unified land manager ministry.  

The role of the Ministry of the Environment is to protect the water, air and land, which in the first term of the Campbell government it was called, Ministry of Water Air and Land Protection.

It was never the role of the EAO in the past to monitor compliance but without anyone else out there, this has become lost in government.  

As you reader should know, I like Gordon Campbell and like the Liberal government.   My worries about Christy Clark have not been borne out and and I am generally very happy with the government.  Unfortunately I do have to point out the current government is failing on the ground in rural BC.

There needs to be hundred of new compliance related staff hired in BC to ensure that what is happening on the land base is what is actually supposed to be going.   We need park rangers, conservation officers, forestry compliance officers, and people to ensure higher level plans and environmental assessments are being followed.
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