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

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

The development permit application is for the back of a property at 2522 Dunsmuir Ave. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Privacy, heritage reasons for secondary house denial in Cumberland

Majority of council wants to see something more in line with Camp Road’s character

Local governments such as Cumberland’s are calling for Ottawa to treat opioids as a public health crisis. (Black Press file photo)
Cumberland councillor motivated by family member’s drug death

Council supports resolution for Ottawa to treat narcotics as public health emergency

Comox Valley Nature hosts an online lecture Sunday, April 18, to address the human and scientific perspective on climate change. Photo supplied
Upcoming Comox Valley Nature webinar addresses climate change

Comox Valley Nature hosts an online lecture Sunday, April 18, when Dr.… Continue reading

30 years after becoming part of the YANA family, Angela Furlotte is all grown up and enjoys her three dogs while working and living in the Comox Valley.
YANA founder helps family in need: a historical account

Andrea Postal Special to The Record The first few months of Angela… Continue reading

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

An AAP will be used to determine if rural residents in the CVRD want a roadside garbage/recycling collection service. File photo
Roadside waste collection proposed in rural areas of Comox Valley

Pending results of the upcoming Alternate Approval Process (AAP), a rural roadside… Continue reading

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Richmond RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng said, in March, the force received a stand-out number of seven reports of incidents that appeared to have “racial undertones.” (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
‘Racially motivated’ incidents on the rise in B.C’s 4th largest city: police

Three incidents in Richmond are currently being invested as hate crimes, says RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng

Most Read