Friday, June 3, 2011

The Environmental Assessment Process

A few weeks ago, I posted about the environmental assessment for the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor Program Surrey Grade Separations 192 Street, 54 Avenue, 196 Street “Combo Project”. Last night, I had the chance to speak with someone who works on putting together environmental assessments for a living. I asked how effective the environmental assessment process is and if it actually helps the environment.

In a nutshell, when a project comes along it must go through either the provincial or federal environmental review process. The process basically looks at how the potential environmental impacts of a project can be mitigated, then suggests the mitigation required for the project to proceed. At the end of the day, it's a politician that decides if a project proceeds. Projects tend to get dropped if the mitigation measures are too costly, so that is one way to protect the environment. I was also told that if First Nations stakeholders aren’t on-board; the project is as good as dead.

It was interesting to learn that while some of Canada's environmental protection law are weak, laws that protect fish and their habitat are stronger. Basically if you don’t have fish habitat in your project, you’re golden. Once fish habitat is involved, the requirement for environmental protection become such that you must have an environmental consultation at a project site that has the power to shut down a project if it could harm fish habitat. Also, the fines for destroying fish habitat can be pretty extreme. It was a very good chat.

With such strong fish protection laws, I wonder why we don’t have the same rules to protect the air we breathe and protect the planet for future generations.

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