Environmental assessments already underway will continue under current process

The British Columbia government is “revitalizing” its environment assessment process to ensure “the public’s expectation of a strong, transparent process is met,” Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman announced Wednesday.

The move comes as the BC NDP government mulls begins public consultations about proposed new regulations to protect against pipeline and marine spills of heavy oil.

A new Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee co-chaired by ecologist Bruce Fraser and lawyer Lydia Hwitsum, Chief of Cowichan Tribes, prepare a report that makes recommendations focusing on three key outcomes: enhancing public confidence, transparency and meaningful participation; advancing reconciliation with First Nations; protecting the environment while supporting sustainable economic development.

“We are working to ensure First Nations, local governments and the general public can meaningfully participate in all stages of a revitalized environmental assessment process,” said Heyman in a press release.

“Our government wants to ensure we have a process that’s transparent, science-based, timely and provides early indications of the likelihood of success. This work will also contribute to our government’s commitment to fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We’ll be working with Indigenous groups at every step of the revitalization process.”

The Environmental Assessment Office is working directly with the First Nations Energy and Mining Council on behalf of the First Nations Leadership Council, to ensure a revitalized environmental assessment process advances reconciliation.

Initial engagement will run through April.

Complementing the work of the advisory committee, the Council is leading a series of regional workshops with First Nations.

The EA Office will also be leading government to government meetings with First Nations and inviting key stakeholders, including industry, environmental non-governmental organizations, local governments, labour and others, to gather specific feedback about their views, experiences and proposed measures to revitalize the environmental assessment process.

Following the initial engagement phase, a discussion paper will be developed to capture feedback, including recommended changes to the process.

The discussion paper will be available for public comment in the spring, with changes to the environmental assessment process expected in late fall 2018.

Environmental assessments already underway will continue under the current process.

The government says revitalizing the environmental assessment process is one of Heyman’s ministerial mandate commitments.