New report highlights need for strategic regional environmental assessment (EA) as federal government prepares to overhaul EA processes in Canada
VANCOUVER, BC – A new report released today by West Coast Environmental Law and the Northwest Institute for Bioregional Research underscores the urgent need to consider cumulative impacts of resource development in northern BC, as residents face a growing barrage of mining, forestry, oil and gas, and other industrial proposals.
The report, entitled Regional Strategic Environmental Assessment for Northern British Columbia: The Case and Opportunity, draws from conversations with approximately 200 residents from six BC communities:Prince Rupert, Terrace, Kitimat, Hazelton, Fort St. John and Chetwynd.
During the sessions, participants emphasized that they felt alienated from meaningful input into environmental decision-making, and expressed a lack of faith in provincial and federal governments to manage the cumulative effects of multiple projects. They also said they were frustrated with the reactive nature of existing project-by-project assessment procedures , and wanted to be involved in a proactive planning process to create the best possible outcomes for their communities moving forward.
“People in northern BC care deeply about the future of their lands and communities, and they deserve meaningful opportunities to participate in decisions that affect their environment,” said Hannah Askew, Staff Counsel at West Coast Environmental Law. “They also deserve a system for reviewing projects that considers the combined impacts of all the industrial activity that is happening in their region.”
The communities selected for the dialogue sessions are all situated in areas that have been inundated with resource project proposals, including hydroelectric development, fracking, forestry and numerous proposals linked to BC’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry.
The report offers specific suggestions for how both the federal and provincial governments can enhance cumulative effects management in these regions, recommending the use of Regional Strategic Environmental Assessment (RSEA) as a tool to address the key problems identified by community members.
“The more residents feel excluded from environmental decision-making in their region, the more difficult it is for proponents to achieve social licence. We’ve seen this play out time and again, especially on major projects such as the proposed Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal on Lelu Island and the Site C dam in the Peace River Valley,” said Pat Moss of the Northwest Institute.
The report comes as the federal government is expected to announce a nationwide review of environmental assessment processes this summer, aiming to introduce “new, fair processes” for reviewing projects by strengthening Canada’s EA laws that were dramatically weakened four years ago.
The full report may be accessed online at: http://wcel.org/resources/publication/regional-strategic-environmental-assessment-northern-british-columbia-case-and
For more information, please contact:
Hannah Askew | Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law
(604) 880-6286, Hannah_Askew@wcel.org
Pat Moss | Executive Director, Northwest Institute for Bioregional Research
(250) 847-9693, Pat@NorthwestInstitute.ca