The B.C. Environmental Assessment Act
The Environmental Assessment Act became law on December 30, 2002, replacing the former Act of the same name, which had been in place for more than seven years. The Act establishes a more flexible and streamlined process for assessing effects of large-scale development proposals. The former Act prescribed a single procedure which had to be followed for every project review subject to that Act. The new Act provides greater flexibility to customize review procedures on a project-by project basis. The increased flexibility is intended to contribute to the British Columbia government’s strategic priorities for an improved investment climate while preserving high environmental standards. This increased flexibility also ensures that the principles of the province’s New Relationship with First Nations, which is a priority for the provincial government, can be implemented.
Key features of the BC environmental assessment process are: First Nation participation; public consultation; clear process management accountabilities; increased procedural choice; more certainty and credibility for project proponents;legislated timelines for certain aspects of the process; and a commitment to improved federal/provincial review harmonization.
While joint federal/provincial environmental assessment continue to face some harmonization challenges for federal comprehensive reviews, these challenges are partly being addressed under the new cooperation agreement and through other creative mechanisms that the BC Environmental Assessment Office and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency are working on.
First Nations, Flexibility, cooperation, Environmental assessment, harmonization