Officials in the Cowichan Valley are pleased that the new NDP government will review the current practice of relying on professionals who work for companies to also provide environmental assessments of the companies’ projects.
Environment Minister George Heyman announced this week that the government will reassess the province’s controversial professional reliance model.
During the past 10 years of Liberal rule in B.C., the government has increasingly relied on professionals hired by companies to provide environmental assessments of the projects instead of the past practice of having independent professionals provide the information.
Sonia Furstenau, the Green MLA for Cowichan Valley, welcomed the government’s review.
She had taken issue with the use of the model to allow operations at the now closed contaminated soil dump near Shawnigan Lake to proceed, despite the community’s concerns about impacts to their drinking water.
“Before professional reliance, government relied on independent in-house experts to conduct environmental assessments to ensure the health and safety of B.C.’s communities,” she said.
“Under professional reliance, the responsibility for this necessary due diligence has been shifted to industry. While qualified professionals are absolutely integral to the environmental assessment process, professional reliance as it stands lends itself to conflict of interest as proponents of projects receive no independent oversight when conducting these vital assessments.”
Jon Lefebure, mayor of North Cowichan and chairman of the Cowichan Valley Regional District, said he is also pleased with the planned review.
Lefebure and a delegation from the Valley met with Heyman on the issue at the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities meeting in Vancouver.
“Having professionals who work for the applicants of projects also do the environmental assessment of them might see the professionals make decisions to make the project work, rather than what is right,” he said.
“The professionals may see it as their job to approve projects, even if they are not environmentally sufficient.”