B.C. to review environment assessment process – by Vivian Luk (Canadian Press/Global Toronto – January 27, 2014)


VANCOUVER – British Columbia Premier Christy Clark has ordered a review of the province’s environmental assessment process, saying the current system has become too cumbersome.

However, Clark revealed few details about the evaluation project she’s handed over to Environment Minister Mary Polak to undertake.

The premier made the announcement at a mineral exploration convention in Vancouver on Monday, in the middle of a speech about extending a $10-million tax credit program to B.C.’s mining industry for another year.

She said environmental reviews of major projects are crucial, and while the current process is rigorous and transparent, the province’s environmental assessment office can “do better.”

“In my view, it is better to do the hard and rigorous work at the front end and get it right, than to endure decades of questions and debate in acrimony about why and how it was done,” Clark said.

The premier did not specify what the review of the environmental assessment process would look like, but told reporters later that she believes the existing system has gotten less predictable and is inefficient.

“My view is if a project is environmentally unsustainable and the wrong project, we should say no. If it’s a project that is environmentally sound, we should say yes,” she said.

“But I think over the years, the environmental assessment process has gotten so long, so difficult and so complex, that communities, proponents can’t get a yes, can’t get a no.”

Clark added she believes getting an efficient approval or rejection would be best for economic development in B.C.

Environment Minister Mary Polak was not immediately available for comment.

Clark’s comments come one month after a federal review panel concluded the Northern Gateway pipeline should be built as long as 209 conditions are met.

The B.C. government officially declared its opposition to the project shortly after Clark’s victory in the provincial election last May, saying the pipeline doesn’t address the province’s environmental concerns.

In 2012, the premier outlined five conditions to win her government’s support for the 1,200-kilometre pipeline, which would transport oil from the Edmonton area to a tanker port in Kitimat. Last year, Clark agreed to drop her demand for a “fair share” of the revenue associated with the project.

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