1 Environmental Assessment | West Coast Environmental Law

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Environmental Assessment

Land Use Planning for Nature, Climate and Communities: Taking Stock and Moving Forward

Subject(s): 
cumulative impacts; land use planning; climate change; forest carbon offsets; mineral tenure reform; green economy
Author(s): 
Jessica Clogg, Deborah Carlson
Summary: 

In this report West Coast Environmental Law analyzes the resource management direction provided by twenty years of strategic land use planning in BC to address three related questions:    

  1. How well do existing land designations and related resource management objectives manage the effects of cumulative environmental change from resource management and other human activities?
  2. Do BC’s existing land designations and resource management objectives provide for resilience and adaptability of ecological systems and human communities in the face of climate change?
  3. How could existing or new land designations be used to enable a ‘greener’ BC economy while safeguarding our natural life support systems?
     

All legally established, mapped areas with conservation-related management objectives at the landscape level or above were included in the analysis, which examined legislative requirements associated with relevant designations and related management objectives. Concurrently, ForestEthics Solutions released maps compiling existing environmental designations for the province as a whole for the first time. Based on data assembled in collaboration with several provincial ministries, the maps and legal analysis illustrate how BC’s collection of land-use designations masks a weak and fragmented approach to conservation at the provincial level.

Key Findings:

  1. BC has many forms of land use designations, but only 15.6% of BC’s land base is covered by an environmental designation that protects the land and water from most types of resource development.
  2. When it comes to managing for resilience, BC’s laws and policies are ‘hardwired for failure’.  Our laws and policies governing the nature, extent and distribution of various land use designations present barriers to maintaining resilient ecological systems and human communities. These barriers include:
  • Legal or policy caps on how much land may be protected and/or how great an impact on resource extraction is permitted
  • Exemptions and loopholes that allow economic considerations to trump conservation objectives
  • Designations and legal management objectives that are not applicable to most forms of development
  • Absence of mandatory triggers for conservation planning
  • Failure to recognize and give legal effect to First Nations decision-making authority in the context of land use planning and environmental decision-making
  1. Climate change was not explicitly taken into account in most strategic land use plans and resulting decisions about designations and land use objectives.
  2. Lack of overall strategic direction and gaps in the enabling legal framework are likely to hamper forests’ contribution to a ‘greener’ economy in BC, but with leadership from provincial and First Nations governments and collaboration with non-governmental organizations these challenges could be surmountable.
  3. With respect to many land designations in BC, our laws do not position us well for the rigorous application of forest carbon accounting standards, with potential environmental and economic costs to the province and project proponents.
     
Publication Date: 
February 2013
Year: 
2013
Pages: 
26
Date Catalogued: 
Thursday, February 21, 2013

West Coast Environmental Law submission to Expert Panel on NEB Modernization

Subject(s): 
National Energy Board
Author(s): 
Eugene Kung
Summary: 

In 2016, the federal government launched a public review to modernize the National Energy Board (NEB), providing an important opportunity to strengthen the regulatory process and ensure that Canada continues to have a modern, efficient and effective regulator. The NEB Modernization process – conducted alongside reviews of the Fisheries Act, Navigation Protection Act and environmental assessment processes – gathered information and perspectives from environmental experts, lawyers, industry, Indigenous peoples and the public.

In West Coast's submissions to the NEB Modernization Panel, we outline a series of recommendations to help the NEB restore public trust in Canada's environmental laws and regulatory regime while playing a key role in the decarbonization of our energy structure. We urge the Panel to be visionary in modernizing the NEB. The scale of change required is significant; a reconstruction rather than a renovation.

Publication Date: 
March 2017
Year: 
2017
Pages: 
20
Date Catalogued: 
Friday, March 31, 2017

West Coast Environmental Law submissions on next generation environmental assessment

Subject(s): 
Environmental Assessment, Cumulative Impacts
Author(s): 
Anna Johnston
Summary: 

In September 2016, an Expert Panel launched a public review of Canada’s environmental assessment processes. The review provided an important opportunity for the Panel to hear from Canadians about the need for a stronger, fairer law governing how Canada makes decisions about things like pipelines, dams, government policies and meeting our commitments to address climate change.

This document, submitted to the Panel by the West Coast Environmental Law Association, outlines the key problems with Canada's current environmental assessment framework, as well as recommendations for reform. The submissions also draw from the outcomes of the Federal Environmental Assessment Reform Summit hosted by West Coast in May 2016, which brought over 30 experts from across Canada together to discuss leading-edge solutions to key issues in federal environmental assessment.

Publication Date: 
December 2016
Year: 
2016
Pages: 
36
Date Catalogued: 
Friday, December 23, 2016

Proceedings of the Federal Environmental Assessment Reform Summit

Author(s): 
Anna Johnston, Staff Counsel
Summary: 

In November 2015, the Ministers of Environment and Climate Change, Fisheries, Transport, Natural Resources, Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and Science were given the mandate to review Canada’s environmental assessment processes or to support that review. In August 2016, the federal government appointed an expert panel to undertake that review, and required it to undertake public and Indigenous consultations. The Panel’s report is due January 31, 2017.

In anticipation of that review, the West Coast Environmental Law Research Foundation hosted a Federal Environmental Assessment Reform Summit in Ottawa May 2016. Attended by approximately 30 of Canada’s leading environmental assessment experts, academics, lawyers and practitioners, the Summit was an opportunity to discuss, crystallize thinking, weigh options and seek to find common ground on key components of a “next-generation” environmental assessment law for Canada.

The Federal Environmental Assessment Reform Summit Proceedings summarize the main outcomes of the discussions that took place during the Summit, including the key principles on which there was general consensus, recommendations for how to implement those proposed reforms and issues that require further discussion and thinking.

The Executive Summary sets out twelve “pillars” of a next-generation environmental assessment that are based on the key principles discussed at the Summit and described in the background reading materials.

Publication Date: 
August 2016
Year: 
2016
Pages: 
76
City: 
Vancouver
Date Catalogued: 
Thursday, August 25, 2016

WCEL Comments on BC's Draft Cumulative Effects Framework

Subject(s): 
Cumulative Effects
Author(s): 
Jessica Clogg, Anna Johnston and Hannah Askew
Summary: 

The BC government is developing a strategy to better assess and manage the cumulative ecological and social effects of past, present and future developments.

West Coast is very supportive of the overall policy commitment to undertaking periodic values-based regional cumulative effects assessments, and to using the results in operational, tactical and strategic decision-making. This submission to the BC government outlines our suggestions to clarify and strengthen the current draft of the BC Cumulative Effects Framework (CEF).

Publication Date: 
June 2016
Year: 
2016
Pages: 
6
Date Catalogued: 
Monday, June 27, 2016

West Coast submission on environmental assessment review terms of reference

Subject(s): 
Environmental Assessment
Author(s): 
Anna Johnston
Summary: 

In June 2016, the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change announced that she would establish an independent expert panel to review Canada’s environmental assessment (EA) processes under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012). Members of the public were invited to submit comments on the Panel’s draft Terms of Reference.

Designed correctly, this review presents a unique opportunity to meaningfully weigh in on the development of an important national environmental law that affects the public’s ability to have a say in projects that affect them.

This submission from West Coast Environmental Law outlines our recommendations on how to help ensure that the review is broad enough and the Panel has adequate resources to identify strategic-level solutions to strengthening EA rather than just incremental improvements to the existing law.

 

Publication Date: 
July 2016
Year: 
2016
Pages: 
6
Date Catalogued: 
Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Regional Strategic Environmental Assessment for Northern British Columbia: The Case and the Opportunity

Subject(s): 
Cumulative Effects
Author(s): 
Lindsay Staples, Hannah Askew
Summary: 

Residents of northern British Columbia are inundated with proposals for industrial development in the areas of liquefied natural gas, mining, forestry, oil and gas, and hydroelectric, and they are expected to respond to these myriad proposals on a project-by-project basis. Along with our colleagues from the Northwest Institute for Bioregional Research, West Coast Environmental Law travelled to communities across the north (Prince Rupert, Terrace, Kitimat, Hazelton, Fort St. John, and Chetwynd) to talk to residents about LNG proposals and cumulative effects.  

Overwhelmingly, we heard three messages:

  1. Residents are feeling alienated from meaningful input into environmental decision-making;
  2. There is a widespread lack of faith in the provincial and federal governments to adequately manage the cumulative effects of multiple developments;
  3. Residents are tired of a reactive environmental assessment process and instead want opportunities to participate in proactive environmental planning.

 

In our report Regional Strategic Environmental Assessment for Northern British Columbia: The Case and Opportunity we propose the use of RSEA as a tool to address these issues, in the context of a government-to-government relationship with Indigenous peoples. RSEA reverses the project-by-project approach to environmental assessment by providing residents the opportunity to imagine the future they want for their land and communities based on shared values, and then measuring individual projects against this vision. In this way, RSEA takes a proactive rather than reactive approach.

Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents of northern British Columbia are deeply invested in the future of their lands and communities. They deserve meaningful participation and influence in environmental decisions that affect their futures and are entitled to rely on frameworks that adequately manage cumulative effects.

Publication Date: 
May 2016
Year: 
2016
Pages: 
91
Date Catalogued: 
Monday, May 30, 2016

Letter to Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna on Public Review of Environmental Assessment Processes

Subject(s): 
Environmental Assessment
Author(s): 
Jessica Clogg et al
Summary: 

On December 22nd, West Coast Environmental Law and our allies in environmental assessment reform sent a letter to Catherine McKenna, Canada's new Minister of Environment and Climate Change, recommending a process for and key issues to examine in the review of environmental assessment processes she was tasked with undertaking in her November, 2015 mandate letter.

Read the letter to learn more about what West Coast and other groups are calling for in the public review of environmental assessment processes.

Publication Date: 
December 2015
Publisher: 
West Coast Environmental Law and allies
Year: 
2015
Pages: 
3
City: 
Ottawa
Date Catalogued: 
Friday, January 29, 2016

Open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau re: Kinder Morgan / Energy East NEB

Subject(s): 
NEB review process
Author(s): 
open letter
Summary: 

An open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change regarding the NEB process.

Publication Date: 
November 2015
Year: 
2015
Pages: 
4
Date Catalogued: 
Friday, November 13, 2015

Building a Lasting Legacy – Safeguarding What We Value: A Regional Strategic Approach to Liquefied Natural Gas Development in BC

Subject(s): 
cumulative effects, environmental assessment, liquefied natural gas
Author(s): 
Jessica Clogg
Summary: 

First Nations and communities in northern British Columbia are presently grappling with the potential for a large number of new resource development projects, and in particular more than a dozen liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) projects, including pipelines and export facilities as well as increased gas extraction to feed these projects. Addressing these projects primarily through project- and proponent-specific environmental assessments and negotiations presents a daunting, if not impossible task that risks less than optimal results for all involved. West Coast Environmental Law has recently concluded a multi-year research project on best practices in regional cumulative effects management. Our research suggests a number of collaborative steps that could be taken to establish a more effective and efficient pathway forward, in particular though collaboratively developed analysis and decision tools at the regional scale to inform inclusive, science-based decisions about land use in particular geographic areas and on specific projects. This regional scale approach to addressing the cumulative effects of different development scenarios is sometimes referred to as regional strategic environmental assessment.

This short publication outlines how best practices regarding regional strategic environmental assessment could be applied to proposed LNG development in British Columbia.

Publication Date: 
May 2014
Publisher: 
West Coast Environmental Law
Year: 
2015
Pages: 
5
Date Catalogued: 
Monday, September 14, 2015
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