Environmental Assessment Office
Highlights of the Year
In 2005/2006, the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) effectively managed the largest project volume in its ten-year history with 50 reviewable projects totalling over 16 billion dollars in potential investment in British Columbia. In an independent client survey, proponents expressed high levels of satisfaction with British Columbia's environmental assessment process and the knowledge and competence of our staff. To further harmonize federal and provincial environmental assessment requirements and promote inter-jurisdictional cooperation, the Environmental Assessment Office negotiated project review agreements with federal counterparts on three major mine developments currently under assessment. In March 2006, the Environmental Assessment Office received the Premier's Award for Organizational Excellence, an honour for high performance and contributions to British Columbia.
During 2005/06, four projects were certified and a total of 50 projects were in the environmental process. The Environmental Assessment Office also reviewed and approved requests from three proponents for amendments to their respective environmental assessment certificates. Under the Environmental Assessment Act, the Environmental Assessment Office may declare that an environmental assessment certificate is not required for a project, if satisfied that the project will not result in any significant adverse effects when practical mitigation measures are taken into account. The Environmental Assessment Office determined that two reviewable projects, the Cranbrook Airport Runway Extension and the Vintage Landing Resort and Wellness Village Project did not require an environmental assessment certificate. Each proponent must still obtain all relevant permits and meet all regulatory requirements before they can proceed. Further information about the projects can be reviewed in Appendices H to K. More detailed information can be found on the Environmental Assessment Office's electronic Project Information Centre (ePIC) at http://www.eao.gov.bc.ca.
When a project is reviewable under the federal Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Act, the Environmental Assessment Office manages the environmental assessment to minimize duplication and overlap wherever possible. In 2005/06, the Environmental Assessment Office negotiated protocols with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to streamline environmental assessment and reporting of the Kitimat LNG Project and the Galore Creek Mine Project. For each project, this will result in a joint assessment report for use in decision-making by provincial ministers and the federal Minister of Environment. For the Kemess North Project, the Environmental Assessment Office and Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency established a panel to conduct the environmental assessment, a first under the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Act.
The Environmental Assessment Office encourages First Nation involvement in project reviews and works to fully identify and address Aboriginal interests through meaningful consultation and accommodation where indicated. Proponents, federal, provincial and local governments continue to work with First Nations on project-specific issues and broader issues of economic development and resource management.
Initiatives in 2005/06 to build relationships with First Nations included three successful workshops with Tahltan communities on the environmental assessment process and mining projects, support for the First Nations Environmental Assessment Technical Working Group and third-party technical assistance to First Nations in the assessments of various mining and energy sector projects.
Respectful engagement with First Nations by the Environmental Assessment Office built trust and support for the environmental assessment process. For example, at the end of the review of the Kitimat LNG Project, the Haisla Nation commended Environmental Assessment Office staff and other government representatives for working hard to understand Haisla interests, which then led to a process on consultation and accommodation that the Haisla view as the standard for how to define relationships between a First Nation, industry and government.