Sunday, April 18, 2010

Site C is the Big Test for Environmental Assessment Office

Way back on November 30, 2006 , I worried that the three coal-fired power plants being planned by the government would be subjected to one of the weakest environmental assessment procedures in the country. Fortunately, those coal-powered plants were cancelled en route to a newer and greener image for Gordon Campbell. But now that the Site C Dam project is being resurrected, we must again ask: is this EA process up to the job?

BC’s Environmental Assessment Act was rewritten in 2002, replacing one of the country’s most progressive provincial EA laws with one of the weakest laws. Strong provisions that were eliminated included a purpose section emphasizing sustainability, requirements to examine cumulative effects, the need to detail alternatives, and innovative public participation requirements, including a mandatory role for First Nations. All of these functions are now being performed more ‘flexibly’ and ‘efficiently’ by a more ‘streamlined’ Environmental Assessment Office.

Perhaps the high profile of this project will help to ensure that the SiteC assessment will be conducted properly. But it will require vigilance and strong public pressure every step of the way.

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