Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Scientists call for further reforms for Government's newly released Environmental Assessment Process

When it comes to reforming the province's Environmental Assessment process, a group of scientists are offering up some advice for the Provincial Government, with three recommendations on what they believe is missing from the document.

As we outlined on the blog earlier this month, the NDP government introduced Bill 51 to the Legislature, the document which has a strong focus towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in British Columbia offered up a range of additional measures to the existing legislation.

The Earth to Ocean Group which is based at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver has examined the government's environmental process blue print and while praising the Horgan government for its commitment to improving the EA process in British Columbia, they do have a few thoughts on what needs to be tweaked in the document.

After reviewing the contents of the bill, the scientists suggest the legislation will fall short of the province's goals,  have found three areas where they say improvement could be made and offer up their recommendations on how to address their concerns:

Lack of Scientific Independence

Information used to assess risk must be collected and interpreted independently of project proponents. Assessing the risk or impact that a project may pose to the environment must be rooted in information collected and interpreted by qualified, independent, professionals who do not stand to gain or lose from the assessment’s conclusions. Concurrent with your government’s ongoing revisions to the use of certified professionals3 (external to the public service), such professionals must work independently from the project proponent. Furthermore, such a process must seek and act on the best available evidence, including peer- reviewed studies.

Lack of peer-review of evidence

Evaluation of a project’s risk to the environment must be conducted by independent experts in relevant fields, at arm’s length from the government, proponent, and the Environmental Assessment Office. Independent evaluation of evidence is standard scientific best practice.

Lack of transparency

Make all records and information related to an assessment permanently and publicly available, develop explicit decision-making criteria, and require transparent rationale of factors considered in the final decision. All raw data, results, analyses, and rationale of factors considered in the evaluation of environmental risk from a proposed project should be readily available to the public and experts. This is modern scientific best practice. Sharing information means that conclusions can be verified – helping to build public trust – and that means the data can be used as benchmarks for future studies, including assessing cumulative effects. While we acknowledge that some information (e.g., culturally sensitive or private) must be protected, sharing all other relevant information in a free, searchable, provincial registry should become a condition of the new EA process.

The full letter to the Premier and his Ministers can be reviewed below, the list of those who have signed the document is available here.

A letter signed by 200 scientists and educators across
British Columbia and Canada calling for some additional
measures for Bill 51

(click to enlarge)

Bill 51 is currently working its way through the Legislative process, you can review some of the path towards its development here.

More on the work of the Earth to Ocean Group can be explored here.

For more items on note related the Provincial government see our Legislature archive page here.

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