British Columbia revises law that regulates the environmental assessment of major resource projects

Photo from archives. Press conference about forming a minority government. Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley, in the middle next to Premier John Horgan. Photo by BCNDP, Flickr.

The British Columbia government announced this week that, after one year of consultations with Indigenous peoples, industry, communities, environmental organizations and the public, it introduced legislation to modernize the environmental assessment of major resource projects.

In a media statement, the provincial administration said that the idea behind the changes is to provide “a clear and timely path for the approval of responsible resource projects, pursue reconciliation with B.C.’s Indigenous peoples, increase public engagement and transparency and deliver stronger environmental protections.”

The new legislation is also part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement signed between the New Democratic Party and the Green Party when the former was pushing to form a minority government in last year’s regional election.

“Revitalizing the environmental assessment process is a key shared commitment because we both recognize the need to strengthen public trust in government decision-making,” said Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley, in the media brief. “It is vital to modernize the EA process so that important considerations like climate change, cumulative impacts and new scientific standards are properly incorporated. I look forward to discussing the legislation further, so we can ensure that the wealth of our natural resources and the well-being of our ecological systems can be enjoyed by British Columbians for generations to come.”

“As a significant private sector employer of Indigenous peoples and a major partner with Indigenous businesses in British Columbia, B.C.’s mining sector is a leader in advancing reconciliation,” Bryan Cox.

The legislation is expected to provide increased clarity and certainty to project proponents through an early engagement phase that will identify the focus areas for the project assessment prior to proceeding through an environmental assessment.

Additionally, the law is expected to enhance public engagement by including additional comment periods and earlier collaboration between the Environmental Assessment Office and local communities. It is also aimed at improving the ability to more fully assess positive and adverse environmental, economic, social, cultural and health effects, including greenhouse gas emissions, and require their consideration in decisions. Finally, the plan is that it also strengthens compliance and enforcement for approved projects, along with audits, to make sure conditions included in EA certificates are mitigating identified adverse effects as intended.

“B.C.’s mining industry is committed to ensuring that responsible, community-supporting natural resource projects have a clear, fair and timely path to approval under the modernized Environmental Assessment legislation,” said Bryan Cox, President and CEO of the Mining Association of BC, in the media brief. “B.C.’s mining sector also plays an essential role in our transition to a low carbon economy through the commodities we mine. MABC will continue to work with government, Indigenous peoples and other important stakeholders to provide critical input to ensure the smooth transition and practical implementation of British Columbia’s new Environmental Assessment Act,” Cox added.

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