Environmental Assessment; Cumulative Effects; Public Participation; Sustainability
As part of a broader review of the process of environmental assessment (EA) in British Columbia, the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) sought stakeholder advice on key performance indicators (KPIs) and measures.
In addition to advice on KPIs the EAO should use to measure its performance and the performcance of the BC EA process, West Coast Environmental Law proposed substantive changes to the BC EA regime that are necessary in order to achieve effective and meaningful EA in the province.
The most important tool for assessing the efficacy of the BC EA process would be a substantive purpose of the Environmental Assessment Act that is linked to sustainability in BC. Put another way, it would be desirable to legally clarify that our environmental decision-making processes are directed at achieving substantive goals such as maintaining both ecological integrity and high levels of human wellbeing, upholding Aboriginal title and rights, and ensuring meaningful citizen participation.
A substantive purpose, along with guiding principles, help guide decision-makers throughout the EA process. They also allow stakeholders, the public, First Nations and other government agencies understand how interim and final decisions are reached. Without these integral elements of the governing legislation, there is a significant risk of real or perceived arbitrariness in both the outcomes of EA processes and in the measuring of EA performance. Additionally, environmental assessments need, at a minimum, to link project siting to existing and future land use plans, and those plans and cumulative studies should form at least a minimum bar of accountability in environmental decision-making.
That said, we do believe there are specific performance indicators that could help the EAO measure its performance and the performance of BC’s EA process. In particular, we note that the measures established in the EAO 2014/155 – 2017/18 Service Plan are inward-looking, pertaining not to EA outcomes but rather to the EAO’s performance as an agency. In our submissions, we suggest some key performance areas (KPAs), sub-KPAs and example KPIs to help assess the EAO’s performance in achieving net gains in each sustainability pillar. The list is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather a starting point for measuring the substantive performance of EA in BC. It is also not given in any order of priority as among the indicators.
West Coast Environmental Law Association