Construction of the new 10-lane Port Mann Bridge over the Fraser River.

Audit flags big gaps in policing environmental reviews

No way to prove required measures are working: Doyle

B.C.’s environmental assessment process is failing to properly oversee certified major projects or ensure that promised work to make up for damage to the environment is actually carried out.

That’s the finding of B.C. Auditor General John Doyle, whose newly released audit plants a big red flag over monitoring work done by the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office (EAO).

“Adequate monitoring is not occurring and follow-up evaluations are not being conducted,” Doyle said in the audit, adding that means the EAO can’t guarantee that requirements to mitigate damage are working.

The audit includes a series of recommendations intended to strengthen the process.

Environmental groups say the findings show the assessment process is simply a rubber stamp for industry.

“We’ve been worried for a long time about the lack of environmental oversight in this province,” Sierra Club BC executive director George Heyman said.

“This report confirms that the situation is worse than we suspected.”

Premier Christy Clark recently criticized the federal government’s decision to reject the Fish Lake mine proposal, saying that B.C. has a strong environmental assessment regime and the contentious Prosperity mine should proceed.

The B.C. EAO had issued an environmental certificate for the mine near Williams Lake that was later overturned by Ottawa on grounds the mine would harm fish and wildlife habitat and infringe First Nations rights.

Heyman said the findings undercut Clark’s claim.

“How can British Columbians trust the process that is intended to ensure that our fish, water, wildlife and human health are adequately protected?” he asked.

NDP environment critic Rob Fleming called it a damning report that shows government cuts to monitoring and enforcement have left proponents self-reporting on their own work.

“Standards are utterly meaningless without monitoring and enforcement,” he said.

The report also noted the EAO doesn’t formally track certified project conditions and commitments for compliance and lacks mechanisms for enforcement.

Projects in the Lower Mainland that are certified through a B.C. environmental assessment and now under construction include the new Port Mann Bridge and Highway 1 widening and the South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR), which opponents have repeatedly warned risks damage to wildlife habitat along the river and threatens Burns Bog.

Both were required as conditions for approval to embark on major works to protect habitat and mitigate damage, including specific measures in the case of the SPFR to safeguard Burns Bog and ancient archaeological sites near the Fraser River.

The audit praises the use of independent monitors to track mitigation compliance for the SFPR and Port Mann projects.

Of 219 projects that have entered the environmental assessment process since 2005, 115 have been approved and 15 were determined to not require assessment while just one was refused certification and 16 others were terminated or withdrawn. The remaining 72 projects are still under review.

Just Posted

Sooke’s Park Watch to cease operation

People not carrying money for donation boxes led to funding shortfalls

West Shore RCMP bust seizes $50,000 worth of drugs

More than 300 grams of cocaine and crack-cocaine seized in Victoria

Indigenous artist challenges people to re-assess environments with new project

The ‘Indigenous Illuminations’ transforms the ordinary into something new

Delays expected on Interurban Road due to wastewater treatment project in Saanich

Traffic down to a single alternating lane until Sunday evening

Last week for first year of Oak Bay deer contraception campaign

Crew working to administer second booster to all 60 does

ELECTION 2019: Have Justin Trudeau’s Liberals really cut middle-class taxes?

Conservative Andrew Scheer vows to cut bottom bracket, NDP’s Jagmeet Singh targets wealth tax

Kamloops man hangs on to back of stolen truck as suspect speeds away, crashes

The pickup truck was seen leaving the roadway before bursting into flames

‘Sky didn’t fall:’ Police, lawyers still adjusting after pot legalization

Statistics Canada says 541 people were charged under the federal Cannabis Act between Oct. 17, 2018 and the end of the year

Fewer people prescribed opioids in B.C., but other provinces lack data: doctors

Patients who began taking opioids were prescribed smaller doses for shorter duration

Electric cello, stolen from vehicle in Williams Lake, returned to U.S. owner

Rita Rice of Texas said she and her husband had given up hope of ever seeing it again

Vancouver Island’s West Coast going wild about cycling

Ongoing project will tie Tofino and Ucluelet together with a paved cycling trail

Drop, cover and hold on: Thousands of British Columbians to take part in earthquake drill

This year’s drill comes as scientists announce discovery of ‘stormquakes,’ an earthquake and hurricane

Woman, 24, faces life-altering injuries after being dragged 4 blocks by vehicle in Vancouver

A gofundme account says the woman will have to undergo multiple complex surgeries

Frustration and pride in Canada after a year of legal pot

It’s one year into Canada’s experiment in legal marijuana, and hundreds of legal pot shops have opened

Most Read