OPINION: EAO’s non-answer provides little clarity on Squamish work camp

The B.C. Environmental Assessment Office’s reply to the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District’s request for an opinion passes the buck.

It fails to answer any questions with respect to the proposed Britannia work camp. At a time when authorities look to provincial regulators for clarity on important matters, this is a disappointing answer.

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Earlier, the office was asked what many would expect to be a yes-or-no answer.

The SLRD made a resolution in April stating that the work camp should “not be brought back to the board for consideration by the board until such time that the provincial government has provided their decision as to whether the existing Environmental Assessment Certificates in respect of the Woodfibre LNG and FortisBC projects (the “projects”) require amendments to incorporate a review of the proposed work camp concept for the projects.”

Basically: would adding a work camp to a project require a change in that project’s environmental certificate, given that the camp might create environmental impacts?

The SLRD delayed its decision on the matter in anticipation that the EAO would provide a clearer picture of what would require an amendment to an environmental certificate.

Instead of clarity for local governments and the general public, the EAO has chosen to give a non-answer that seems to undermine its own authority as a regulatory body.

“Woodfibre and FortisBC are responsible to ensure activities fully meet requirements of their EA Certificates,” answered the EAO’s executive project director Nathan Braun.

“If the projects determine that use of the work camp is in a manner inconsistent with a certificate condition or the certified project description, they are welcome to apply for amendments to their EA Certificates, which would be reviewed and considered by the EAO. The EAO would engage the SLRD, as well as other parties, should such an application be submitted.”

This is basically asking proponents of projects to regulate themselves.

It’s like a police officer making a traffic stop. You would expect the officer to ask for a driver’s licence and see if the person’s qualifications match up to the type of vehicle they are driving.

Instead, in this case, the officer is telling the person they are stopping — without checking their licence — that if they are not qualified to be driving that motorcycle, they are welcome to take a road test.

This example is absurd because normally we’d expect the officer to be the one telling us if that person is qualified.

Instead, in the EAO’s case, the officers have thrown up their hands and essentially said it’s up to companies to figure it out for themselves.

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