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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria council recommends prioritizing housing for people in the area for at least a year

The motion passed unanimously during committee of the whole meeting

Deal Street artist to host front yard art show this weekend

Ojibwe artist inspired by West Coast features and landscapes

Victoria woman to sell masks on wheels after garage stand shut down

Mama’s Masks stand accompanied Moss Street Market

Greater Victoria non-profit advocates for the use of psilocybin for terminal patients

North Saanich psychotherapist pushes for alternative treatment

Gathering marks 10 years since nearly 500 asylum-seekers landed off Victoria shore

The 492 people fleeing violence, war crimes and genocide in Sri Lanka were detained for months

578 British Columbians currently infected with COVID-19

Seventy-eight new cases confirmed in past 24 hours

Captive fawn seized from Island home

Valley resident charged and fined under the Wildlife Act

Bamfield residents, visitors pressure province as anniversary of fatal crash approaches

Letter-writing campaign makes ‘heartfelt, emotional pleas’ to improve road conditions

Pandemic could be driving more parents to get on board with flu shot: study

University of B.C. study gauges willingness for parents to vaccinate children for influenza

Watchdog clears Okanagan RCMP in death of man after arrest over alleged stolen pizzas

The man died in hospital after having difficulty breathing and broken ribs

Have you seen Berleen? B.C. pig destined for sanctuary goes missing

Berleen was less than two weeks from travelling to Manitoba when she vanished

Health Canada says several kids hospitalized after eating edible pot products

People warned not to store cannabis products where children can find them

‘It’s not just about me’: McKenna cites need to protect politicians from threats

Police investigation was launched after someone yelled obscenities at a member of McKenna’s staff

Michigan plans dedicated road lanes for autonomous vehicles

First study of its kind in the U.S. to figure out whether existing lanes or shoulders could be used

Most Read