An expert panel held a two-day engagement session on Dec. 8-9 to gather comments and suggestions about the current Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to improve the system in the near future.

Federal environmental review panel hears system must be improved

Complaints and suggestions for the current environmental review process were voiced to an expert panel at a public engagement session

Complaints and suggestions for the current environmental review process were voiced to an expert panel at a public engagement session in Prince Rupert last week.

For two days, Dec. 8-9, the federally-appointed panel listened to presentations from industry stakeholders, as well as indigenous and conservation groups on how to improve the system.

When an industrial project is proposed, such as the Pacific NorthWest LNG export terminal, The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) is responsible for ensuring that the project will not adversely effect the environment within federal jurisdiction.

The Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna was mandated with improving the current environmental review process. The expert panel began public consultations in September and will continue taking submissions until Dec. 23.

The Tsimshian Environmental Stewardship Authority’s environmental assessment manager, James Witzke presented on issues relating to all Nations, including lack of consideration, or assessment of socio-economic impacts both on and of reserve communities, lack of adequate long term environmental monitoring process and a lack of adequate cumulative effects assessment or management.

Prince Rupert Port Authority’s director of environmental planning, Jack Smith, stated that “during the assessment of project impacts, we believe that the current federal legislation is an effective guide to community consultation and consideration of environmental factor.”

However, he said that environmental assessments should be timely and predictable with clear objectives for the responsible authorities involved.

The panel review session also attracted speakers from other regions affected by the CEAA process.

The current process lacks public confidence in the system, said Nikki Skuce, from the Northern Confluence Initiative based in Smithers.

Skuce was the first presenter and stressed that there needs to be collaborative decision making with First Nations, and that changes be made to the Fisheries Act.

“In the past, there used to be a link when an authorization is required under the Fisheries Act that would trigger a federal environmental assessment, (after the 2012 changes to the CEAA) it no longer does and we want that back. So that fisheries, fish and fish habitat is a trigger for an environmental assessment with the CEAA,” Skuce said.

The expert panel is also taking comments on the National Energy Board, Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Fisheries Act, which the government intends to review and modernize.

An organization from Alaska was also present. Jill Weitz, manager of Salmon Beyond Borders, was there to address her concerns that there needs to be more federal engagement in projects that have trans-boundary implications.

There are three watersheds that border southeast Alaska and northwest B.C., the Taku, Stikine and Unuk Rivers north of the Nass and Skeena rivers. Within those watersheds there are more than 10 large scale mines at different stages of development.

“Currently, we have no meaningful stake or seat at the table. The State of Alaska has worked with B.C. in the last year to essentially create this statement of cooperation, which is a good first step but does not give enforceable protections. They don’t have the authority to establish those and enforce those,” Weitz said.

For projects that have trans-boundary implications, between provinces and international boundaries, Weitz said the environmental review should be federal and not provincial.

Her concerns elevated after reading the B.C. Auditor General’s report in 2016 that suggested compliance and enforcement in the mining industry is failing, she said it’s clear the province is not doing their job.

Public consultation began in September and the panel will continue taking submissions until Dec. 23. The panel was looking for suggestions as well as concerns.

“We are desperately looking for solutions because this is a forward-looking exercise,” said panel chair Johanne Gélinas.

 

Just Posted

Kitchen at risk of closing without volunteers at the Prince Rupert Seniors’ Centre

President of the charity, Bonnie Wekel, is working in the kitchen while they search for people

BC Bus North service extended to September

Transportation ministers have extended the service, which was set to expire at the end of May

Nisga’a leader named UNBC chancellor

Dr. Joseph Arthur Gosnell is the first Indigenous leader to assume the role

Northwest local governments team up to fill in future employment gaps

Around 17,000 jobs will need to be filled in the region over the next eight years

Poetry month sees launch of “Oona River Poems” at Rupert library

Peter Christensen consciously and lovingly documents our physical and psychological landscapes

Prince Rupert students share portraits of kindness with children in Peru

The Memory Project gives teens a chance to sharpen their art skills and global awareness

Two in critical condition, several still in hospital after Langley deck collapse

Close relative Satwant Garcha makes daily trips to visit those injured at the wedding

Allegedly intoxicated man arrested after 3 paramedics attacked at Kamloops hospital

Paramedics had transported the man to Royal Inlands Hospital for medical treatment

Canadian privacy watchdogs find major shortcomings in Facebook probe

The probe followed reports that Facebook had let an outside organization use an app to access users’ personal info

B.C., Ottawa talk 50/50 split on abandoned bus-route service

B.C. has paid $2 million on a bus service for the northern part of the province

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

Canfor curtailing operations across B.C.

Low lumber prices and the high cost of fibre are the cause of curtailment

B.C. woman, 76, challenges alcohol-screening laws after failing to give breath sample

Norma McLeod was unable to provide a sample because of her medical conditions

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

Most Read