VICTORIA - British Columbia's Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) has implemented four of the six auditor general's recommendations aimed at increased project oversight and will complete action on the remaining two within seven months, Environment Minister Terry Lake announced today.
"Our goals are to ensure that the EAO is independently and objectively confident that the conditions set in certificates are effective in preventing or mitigating adverse effects and that those condition are being met," Lake said. "The work that the EAO is doing to meet these goals addresses and goes beyond the audit report's recommendations."
Actions that exceed the auditor general's recommendations include developing a continuous improvement program that evaluates the effectiveness of environmental assessment certificate mitigation measures to inform future environmental assessments. As well, the EAO is incorporating best practices from leading jurisdictions around the globe into its compliance and enforcement strategy.
The EAO has also strengthened its compliance and enforcement capacity. Additional compliance specialists have been added, and there are now six positions dedicated to establishing and managing EAO's compliance and enforcement program.
The six recommendations made by the auditor general in July 2011 centred on improved compliance and enforcement oversight of certified projects, the effectiveness of certificate conditions and public reporting on projects that have been given environmental assessment certificates.
Action and work completed to date include:
- Conducting project inspections to verify compliance with environmental assessment certificate conditions and following up on instances of non-compliance.
- Working with the Ministry of Justice and government compliance experts to ensure that all draft certificate conditions are measurable and enforceable.
- Developing compliance and enforcement management plans to co-ordinate interagency inspection, investigation and enforcement activities for each certificate condition to ensure there are no gaps in oversight or duplication, making best use of taxpayers' resources.
- Authorizing 169 staff of the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations' Compliance and Enforcement Branch under the Environmental Assessment Act to inspect certified projects for compliance with certificate conditions.
- Continuing to work with the Ministry of Environment and other natural resource management agencies on the development of the Environmental Mitigation Policy to mitigate adverse environmental effects.
- Developing an effectiveness program to evaluate the extent to which the mitigation conditions contained in the certificates are effective in avoiding or mitigating adverse effects.
- Improving public information about certified projects to include information on compliance and enforcement activities and effectiveness evaluations.
"My goal is to have an environmental assessment process that is held up as a model around the world," Lake said. "These improvements take us a long way toward that goal."
B.C. Environmental Assessment Office: http://www.eao.gov.bc.ca/
Ministry of Environment
250 812 0495 (cell)