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MLAs react to environmental assessment audit

The provincial government has accepted the auditor general’s recommendations regarding the operation of the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office.

Last week John Doyle released his latest report, An Audit of the Environmental assessment Office’s Oversight of Certified Projects.

The report concluded that conditions and commitments surrounding the issuance of environmental assessment certificates should be measurable and enforceable. That, said Doyle, was not occurring “consistently” and therefore the office “can not assure British Columbians that the conditions and commitments stated in the environmental assessment certificate are being met.”

Doyle further added, “Adequate monitoring and enforcement of certified projects is not occurring and follow-up evaluations are not being conducted.”

The EAO completes environmental assessments on major projects such as mines (like Prosperity, for example) or power plants in the province prior to their development.

It assesses the  environmental effects as well as economic, social, heritage and health impacts of projects and determines whether to move the project ahead for further development.

Doyle made six recommendations to government to improve the office’s operations.

Both Cariboo North and Cariboo Chilcotin MLAs Bob Simpson and Donna Barnett applaud the move by government to accept the report’s recommendations.

Simpson said budget and staffing cuts have been partially to blame, as well as what he calls a “reorientation” of the review process under Gordon Campbell’s mandate that resulted in projects that were approved and fast tracked.

Barnett said she couldn’t comment on staff or budget reductions in the office and suggested that Simpson was playing partisan politics.

“We have some of the toughest environmental regulations anywhere and if there’s room for improvement I think we should heed what the auditor general,” Barnett said. “If his feelings are we have the toughest regulations and they’re not being followed up on then let’s take his recommendations and ensure that they are.”

Simpson pointed out the EAO is critical especially now as Premier Christy Clark pushes for a streamlined environmental review process with the federal government.

“I am not opposed to a single environmental review process but I am opposed to a single review process based on the B.C model and I think the AG report gives some evidence to those of us who are saying we want a robust review process. It can be one window but it has to be robust and the B.C. model as it is right now is not that model and the AG report confirms that,” he said.

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