URGENT! Help us fix the broken environmental assessment process

We are furious, and we need your help.

For the last five years we've been saying that the environmental assessment process is completely broken... and right now, when we have a chance to fix it, the BC Environmental Assessment Office (BC EAO) has proposed changes that will make it even worse.

In fact, under these proposed changes neither Woodfibre LNG or the FortisBC pipeline would trigger an environmental assessment!

That is crazy!

As we collectively face a deepening climate crisis and the threatened extinction of hundreds of thousands of species, it is imperative that our governments develop stronger and tougher laws to protect the lands and waters we all depend on.

BC’s new Environmental Assessment Act, passed in November 2018, won’t come into force until new regulations are developed that determine how the Act will work in practice. The proposed regulations fall far short of what is needed.

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Why are we so concerned?

One of the proposed triggers to launch an environmental assessment is greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). This seems like a good step, except that the proposed threshold is 382,000 tonnes of GHGs per year - that is equivalent to 1% of our entire GHG budget for 2030! This is way too high and would only catch a handful of the biggest climate polluting projects. For example, Woodfibre LNG is far under this proposed threshold and wouldn't trigger an environmental assessment!  If we are going to meet our climate targets, we have to take GHG emissions seriously as part of the review process.

Another proposed threshold for triggering an environmental assessment is at least 60 km of new linear disturbance. Under this threshold, the FortisBC pipeline from Eagle Mountain to Woodfibre also wouldn't trigger an environmental assessment! FortisBC already rigged their pipeline so that it was under 50 km to avoid a more rigorous federal environmental assessment. With these proposed changes, it wouldn't trigger a provincial assessment either!

The BC EAO has allowed industry to dictate what will trigger an environmental assessment!

The proposed regulations seem to be designed to suggest change on paper while doing little to alter the status quo in practice. This is unacceptable and won’t result in the changes we need to protect the lands and waters in this time of environmental crisis.

BC is seeking public input until October 7th. Can you take a few minutes to add your voice?

STEP 1 Download the EA Intentions Paper

STEP 2 Fill out the public engagement survey

DEADLINE Monday 7th October

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Tips on the public engagement survey

The BC Environmental Assessment Office doesn't really WANT you to participate, so they've set up a confusing survey and they're hoping you won't respond.

Thankfully, with our help it will only take a few minutes. For any questions you don’t know, you can select the ‘don’t know/no opinion’ option and move on to the questions where you have input.

Here are a couple of specific recommendations you might consider including:

  • For question 8: choose "strongly agree" that There are project categories that should be added to the Reviewable Projects Regulation.

  • For question 9: ask for "upstream oil and gas extraction" to be listed as a project category so the impact-based thresholds apply to upstream oil and gas activities, including fracking.

  • For question 11: choose "strongly disagree" that There are project categories that should be added to the Reviewable Projects Regulation.
  • For question 14: choose "strongly agree" that Project Design thresholds are an important factor to determine if a project is likely to cause adverse effects, and therefor trigger an environmental assessment.

  • For question 15: choose "strongly disagree" that Project design thresholds are enough information to determine if a project is likely to cause adverse effects, and therefor trigger an environmental assessment.

  • For question 16 on Project Design Thresholds:

    • Mining
      The previous (BC Liberal) government rewrote the threshold rules for mining in 2002, exempting metal mines that produce less than 75,000 tonnes of ore/year from review. Please restore the original threshold of 25,000 tonnes of ore/year.

    • Energy - Electricy Projects
      All run-of-river projects must undergo a comprehensive environmental assessment as they operate in sensitive habitat.

    • Energy - Petroleum and Natural Gas Projects
      All LNG and LPG storage projects should be reviewable. The current proposal would increase the threshold 73% from 56,800 tonnes of LNG storage to 98,532 tonnes of LNG storage. This is unacceptable.

    • Water Management Projects
      The extraction of deep groundwater for oil and gas extraction MUST be reviewed by the BC environmental assessment office. The BC Oil and Gas Commission has proven that it is incapable of regulating industry, and is nothing more than a captured regulator.

    • Tourist Destination Resort Projects
      The current threshold is 1,000 beds. Please reduce the threshold to 500 new bed units.

  • For question 17: choose "strongly agree" that Effects Thresholds are an important factor to determine if a project is likely to cause adverse effects, and therefor trigger an environmental assessment.

  • For question 18 on Effects Thresholds:

    • Assess whether there are cumulative impacts with other local or regional projects. For example, one project on its own may not have a big impact, but when combined with hundreds of other local or regional projects then the cumulative impacts need to be properly assessed.

  • For question 19 on Effects Thresholds:

    • Lower the GHG emission threshold to 20,000 tonnes. The proposed threshold of 382,000 tonnes is misleading because it implies that BC will trigger assessments based on GHG emissions when in reality the threshold is so high that the status quo won’t change. Lowering the GHG threshold is necessary to evaluate cumulative impacts and to ensure that any new projects are feasible within our climate targets.

    • Lower the land disturbance threshold to 50 hectares. For this threshold to have any relevance or meaning, it needs to be set at the lower end so it captures projects with potentially significant impacts that would otherwise escape an environmental assessment.

    • Lower the current linear disturbance threshold to 10 km. It is unacceptable to increase this threshold from the current 20 km to 60 km.
       
  • For question 20 on Notification Thresholds, choose "strongly disagree" that these three thresholds are "enough to ensure the EAO can track projects that might require an environmental assessment that do not meet the requirements of the reviewable project regulation."

  • For question 21 choose "strongly agree."
     
  • For question 22 on Notification Thresholds:
    These notification thresholds are unacceptable. The number of employees estimated for a proposed project is irrelevant to the potential environmental, health, social, economic, and climate impacts from a project.

  • For question 28 "Final Thoughts"

    • Do more to stop companies from ‘project splitting’ or ‘project phasing’ to avoid environmental assessment thresholds.
    • Define a ‘new project’ to include multiple proposals or applications by the same proponent for activities that are functionally interconnected.
    • Require assessment for any expansion of a project that would cause it to exceed the threshold for a new project in that category.

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This review of the environmental assessment process is intended to rebuild public trust. But the BC government is way off base with their current proposed regulations for environmental assessments. Please add your voice today to ensure we have strong environmental regulations for new and existing projects.

With thanks,

Tracey + Eoin

My Sea to Sky

P.S. For more information, you can read our letter here. Note that only organizations can send letters to inform this process (not individuals)!

P.P.S.  Our good friends at West Coast Environmental Law have a useful article summarizing the main issues with the proposed regulations. Please take a read and fill out the BC government's survey today!

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