The B.C. Liberal government is “hellbent” on discarding environmental protections, according to Spencer Chandra Herbert.
Speaking by phone, the NDP environment critic noted the government’s move to exempt ski resorts and sweet natural gas plants from the environmental assessment process follows legislation paving the way for pipeline feasibility studies in provincial parks and proposing a two-tiered Agricultural Land Reserve.
“This looks to me like the Liberals have decided to reward their friends and insiders,” Chandra Herbert told the Straight. “‘Here, we don’t care about the environment. Just go full bore on whatever project you want to make some money on and who cares about the locals.’”
On April 14, the government announced it had amended the Reviewable Projects Regulation, deleting the requirement for new and expanded ski and all-season resorts to obtain an environmental assessment certificate, effective January 1, 2015. Another amendment removes the “volume-based trigger” for natural gas processing plants, meaning only facilities with sulphur emissions of two tonnes or more per day will be subject to an assessment, as of April 28, 2014.
Environment Minister Mary Polak told the Straight the master plan review process for resorts “virtually mirrors” the environmental assessment process. The B.C. Liberal MLA for Langley also asserted the capacity threshold for reviewable natural gas plants had “no scientific basis whatsoever”.
“There’s no reason why a company should have to go through the same process twice,” Polak said by phone. “It doesn’t change the scrutiny. It simply means that they’ll only have to go through the process once.”
According to Chandra Herbert, there was no consultation on these changes. The Vancouver–West End MLA suggested they may be linked to the Jumbo Glacier Resort project, whose environmental assessment certificate looks set to expire in October.
“Suggesting that a ski hill and a resort which could completely take over a mountain or two has pretty much no environmental impact is lunacy,” Chandra Herbert said. “We need a review process—a strong review process—that balances environmental protection and economic development, because if you destroy the land, you don’t get to do it over again.”
“With Bill 4, people will see no change on the ground in terms of what happens in B.C. parks—absolutely none,” Polak said.