New Prosperity – Same Old Result: Revisiting Taseko’s Gold-Copper Mine Proposal

Two years ago, another MEnv student wrote about the Prosperity mine in British Columbia. This was a mining project which was approved in the BC provincial environmental assessment process in 2009 but rejected in the federal process. Within the post, the student writes “an in depth comparison shall be necessary once the environmental impact assessment is officially completed under the CEAA 2012”, and two years later, the results are in! In February 2012, a decision statement was issued by the Canadian Minister of the Environment, Leona Aglukkaq, stating that Taseko (the proponent) once again would not be granted permission for development [1]. After reviewing and writing a 7000 word paper on the most recent environmental impact statement submitted to the review panel by Taseko, it was not surprising to me why their project was denied approval.

Taseko attempted to deal with the concerns raised in 2009 about fish habitat by implementing new mitigation measures to preserve some of the habitat which originally would have been destroyed, explained through this video.

If you’re pressed for time, skip ahead to 5:40 where Taseko claims that their tailings pond will create suitable habitat for fish. Unfortunately for Taseko, much of the science underpinning this claim came into question during the review process. A study of the project’s tailings storage facility launched by Natural Resources Canada found a seepage rate eleven times higher than the predicted values in the environmental assessment [2].

Taseko have also failed to obtain free, prior, and informed consent from First Nations within the region, something considered to be part of best practice in mining [3]. The mitigation measures implemented by Taseko in their New Prosperity proposal did not do enough to convince the Tsilhqot’in First Nations that the project is safe. This was exemplified by Chief William who stated that “the Tsilhqot’in Nation remains unified in its opposition to this project because of the tremendous destruction it would mean for critical traditional lands and waters and the cultural survival of the Tsilhqot’in people”[4].  The Tsilhqot’in made history in 2014 when the Supreme Court of Canada upheld its land title claim to 1700 square kilometers [5]. Making the matter even more confusing is that the granted land claim shows that the New Prosperity mine is not directly on Tsilhqot’in territory, leading Taseko to believe their project should now move forward [6]. This is an example of how an overarching agreement, such as the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) in Quebec, between government and First Nations, would not only benefit private industry but also help in protecting the traditions and cultures of First Nations.

Tsilhqot’in protest the Prosperity mine

New Prosperity is an example of a project which is a risk to the environment. Questionable science has been used, and I believe the proper decision was made. However, like a child who won’t take no for an answer, Taseko is filing a lawsuit against the federal government. They are seeking damages for the rejection of their project. The legitimacy of EIA might be questioned if a project is rejected and companies receive damages for money spent on projects prior to approval. As Tim Timberg, lawyer for the federal Environment Minister put it, “the real remedy Taseko seeks remains the same – to quash these administrative decisions and allow them to proceed with the construction of the proposed mine” [7]. This mining project is not only important for the area where it will be built, but also will speak volumes about the legitimacy and integrity of environmental assessment in Canada. Will Taseko be granted another chance for approval due to their increasing legal pressures on the federal government? Only time will tell…

References

[1] Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. (2014, February 25). Decision Statement Issued under Section 54 of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. Retrieved February 8th 2015, from http://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/document-eng.cfm?document=98458

[2] Natural Resources Canada. (2013, July 4). Numerical Modeling of Groundwater Seepage from the Tailings Storage Facility of the Proposed Taseko New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine Project. Retrieved February 8th 2015, from http://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/documents/p63928/90733E.pdf

[3] International Council on Mining and Metals. (2015). 10 Principles. Retrieved February 8th 2015, from http://www.icmm.com/our-work/sustainable-development-framework/10-principles

[4] Zilker, Wolfgang. (2013, June 20). Tsilhqot’in Nation Prepares for Public Hearings for Controversial New Prosperity Mine Proposal as Taseko Mines Ltd. Refuses to Answer Direct Requests from the Panel. Retrieved February 8th 2015, from http://www.protectfishlake.ca/letters/2013-06/tsilhqot-146-in-nation-prepares-for-public-hearings-for-controversial-new-prosperity-mine-proposal-as-taseko-mines-ltd-refuses-to-answer-direct-requests-from-the-panel.php

[5] CBC News. (2014, June 26). Tsilhqot’in First Nation granted B.C. title claim in Supreme Court ruling. Retrieved February 8th 2015, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/tsilhqot-in-first-nation-granted-b-c-title-claim-in-supreme-court-ruling-1.2688332

[6] Klein, Greg. (2014, June 26). Taseko Says Land Claims Ruling Shows New Prosperity Outside Aboriginal Territory. Retrieved February 8th 2015, from http://resourceclips.com/2014/06/26/taseko-says-land-claims-ruling-shows-new-prosperity-outside-aboriginal-territory/

[7] Moore, Dene. (2014, October 22). Taseko says Environment Minister’s rejection of B.C. mine improper. Retrieved February 8th 2015, from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/taseko-says-environment-ministers-rejection-of-bc-mine-improper/article21250492/

A Case for Cumulative Effects Assessments in Protecting Caribou Populations

Despite being an unassailable cultural icon in Canada and enjoying a broad geographic spread, the North American caribou (Rangifer tarandus) faces many challenges to its long-term survival. Indeed, as of November, 2014, the majority of caribou subspecies have been listed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern under the Species at Risk Act[1] and continue to exhibit declining population trends outside of natural fluctuations[2]. As can be seen in the following illustration, every subspecies aside from barren-ground caribou and certain ecotypes of woodland caribou have been given special status, yet all herds suffer from a receding historical range[2]:

Distribution and Status of Caribou Subspecies in Canada

One major factor contributing to this decline is the large-scale disturbance to high-quality caribou habitats from development projects[3][4]. Although the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process is intended to minimize or avoid a project’s potential environmental impacts prior to implementation, it has not proven to be exceedingly effective in predicting or mitigating impacts on caribou populations due to its narrow, project-based approach[5]. Instead, more comprehensive practices such as cumulative effects assessments (CEAs) must be employed so the interactions between proposed activities and specialized, migratory species like caribou can be adequately understood.

Typically, a zone of influence around a project is demarcated in order to assess the spatiotemporal extent of its disturbances on caribou populations[4]. This approach, however, implicitly assumes that disturbances are isolated to a single project and neglects the interaction of effects from multiple projects and stressors in the region which combine to inflate the initial zone of influence and magnify its impacts. Properly assessing a project’s true zone of influence is essential for accurate impact predictions as caribou will often exhibit an avoidance response when encountering a zone of influence, whereby they alter their behaviour, distribution, or selection of suitable habitats[4]. Some observed avoidance responses have been so severe that caribou populations like the woodland caribou in northern Alberta have avoided high-quality habitats 1 km near oil and gas wells, equivalent to a 22-48% loss in available habitat[4]. Pictured below is an example of a suitable boreal habitat that could be abandoned by caribou if cumulative disturbances in the region are too great[6].

Caribou Entering Boreal Forest Habitat

Negative impacts on caribou populations are not always so linear either. A study by Beauchesne et al. (2014) showed that woodland caribou responded to an increase in cumulative anthropogenic disturbances by expanding their home ranges, a behaviour shift which resulted in greater energy expenditures and risk of exposure to predators[3]. These kinds of indirect effects generally occur outside the scope of an individual project yet they still interact to endanger caribou population persistence. Similarly, Frid and Dill (2002) provide a simple model that depicts how effects like disturbances and predation encounters displace caribou from preferred habitats and create a cascading response that indirectly affects population size[7].

Model of Indirect Effects on Caribou Population Size

Given the complexity of population dynamics then, the simpler project-based approach to impact prediction and evaluation should be relegated to smaller projects that do not infringe upon caribou habitats. CEA is currently the most viable tool to address the myriad of spatiotemporal factors at the landscape level, and, while often criticized for being ineffective[4], it has great potential for improvement. One suggestion to render CEAs more effective is to establish cumulative effect thresholds that are incorporated into the approval process for industrial activity occurring within caribou ranges[5]. As of yet though, no such thresholds exist within any jurisdiction in Canada[5].

References

[1]Environment Canada. (2014). Species at Risk Act (S.C. 2002, c.29). Ottawa, ON: Minister of Justice.

[2]Gunn, A., Russell, D., and J. Eamer. (2011). Northern caribou population trends in Canada. Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010, Technical Thematic Report No. 10. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers.

[3]Beauchesne, D., Jaeger, J.A.G., and M. St-Laurent. (2014). Thresholds in the capacity of boreal caribou to cope with cumulative disturbances: Evidence from space use patterns. Biological Conservation, 172, 190-199. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2014.03.002

[4]Johnson, C.J., and M. St-Laurent. (2011). Unifying Framework for Understanding Impacts of Human Developments on Wildlife. In D.E. Naugle (Ed.), Energy Development and Wildlife Conservation in Western North America (pp. 27-54). Washington, DC: Island Press.

[5]Anderson, R.B., Dyer, S.J., Francis, S.R., and E.M. Anderson. (2002). Development of a Threshold Approach for Assessing Industrial Impacts on Woodland Caribou in the Yukon. Whitehorse, YT: Applied Ecosystem Management Ltd.

[6]Youds, M. (December 26, 2013). Mountain Caribou Face Uncertain Future [Article]. Retrieved from http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Mountain+caribou+face+uncertain+future/9325826/story.html

[7]Frid, A., and L. Dill. (2002). Human-caused Disturbance Stimuli as a Form of Predation Risk. Conservation Ecology, 6(1): 11.

Mandatory Environmental Corporate Social Responsibility: Can Canada become a leader?

CSR-title-graphic

Corporate Knights, 2011 [3]

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has become an integral part of the corporate decision-making process. This acceptance of EIA as a project decision making tool with processes for identifying and evaluating impacts has translated into the world of corporate management with the creation of various public reports on corporate social responsibility (CSR). Over the past decade sustainable development reporting has been adopted by the majority of Canadian companies as a means of strengthening the link between the companies and their stakeholders [2]. Unfortunately, the comparison of those reports is hampered by the difficulty of defining corporate social responsibility [3]. As Cory Searcy states in his article [1] corporations have been struggling with the question of what information they should be sharing with the public and how should they be presenting it.

The issues of defining CSR and reporting how a company’s environmental, social and governance programs meet their corporate sustainable development goals can be addressed through the use of reporting standards. But what reporting standards should be used? There are a multitude of guidelines and standards for CSR reporting that have resulted in a very broad range in the quantity and quality of information in CSR reports [1]. The experience of the last ten years shows that voluntary reporting may not be serving stakeholders and the public very well. Analysis of 94 Canadian corporate sustainability reports showed that 585 different indicators were reported yet only three indicators were shared between the companies [1]. This degree of variance in the reports is surprising given the robust standard of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Voluntary reporting may be widely accepted, but it clearly is not serving the needs of the stakeholders and the public.

GRI Reporting Cycle

GRI Reporting Cycle [4]

Mandatory reporting addresses most of the shortcoming of voluntary reporting. It allows for clearer corporate communication with mutually understood terminology and measures, and allows stakeholders to more easily compare the CSR statements of various companies [2]. In 1993 Canada was one of the leaders in mandatory reporting with the Whitehorse Mining Initiative, but has lagged since then. Corporate lobbying and government reluctance to regulate has left Canada with a poor voluntary reporting process and few standards. In countries where mandatory reporting structures have been adopted, socially responsible managerial practices have increased, and sustainable development key performance indicators have been implemented [2]. With a mandatory reporting structure in place, overall social responsibility increases due to improvements in communication and comparability.

How can Canada regain a leading position in CSR reporting? Adopting mandatory reporting standards based on the GRI guidelines for all companies would be a good start. The current reporting structure involving the financial and other regulated industries needs be expanded to incorporate the GRI standards. On the world stage, this would allow Canadian companies to better demonstrate their commitment to corporate sustainable development and would help Canada to repair its environmental reputation.

 

References:

[1] Searcy, Cory (2012) Mandatory reporting? Corporate Knights, 11(1), 38-39.

[2] CGA-Canada (2011) Regulating sustainability reporting – Is a mandatory approach better than a voluntary one? December 2011.

[3] Drohan, Madelaine (2011) Big country, small steps: Taking a critical look at the last decade of corporate social responsibility in Canada. Corporate Knights, issue 35, 25-28.

[4] Brown, H. S., de Jong, M., & Levy, D. L. (2009). Building institutions based on information disclosure: lessons from GRI’s sustainability reporting. Journal of Cleaner Production, 17(6), 571-580.

Career Paths for Environmental Impact Assessment Graduates

by Dana Feingold

Life

Image source

Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is a trans-disciplinary field that integrates public policy, qualitative analysis, quantitative and statistical analysis, GIS mapping, stakeholder engagement, long-range planning, scientific expertise, and many other knowledge areas.  Some professionals come to EIA practice with a natural science or urban planning background, while others come from postgraduate academic programs such as those offered by Concordia University or the University of Manchester that are specifically designed to incorporate the diverse specializations within the environmental assessment field.

Once a student finishes his or her master’s program in environmental assessment, there is a wide range of career paths that he or she may choose to take.  Broadly speaking, these paths include environmental consulting; environmental advocacy organizations (generally non-profit or nongovernmental organizations); government jobs (at the local, provincial, or federal levels).  These three paths are explained in brief below.

Environmental Consulting

An entry-level position for an EIA graduate within an environmental consulting firm will expose the new professional to site visits, data collection and analysis, and technical writing.  He or she will work as part of a multidisciplinary team alongside engineers, architects, and environmental and social scientists on projects ranging in size from site-specific actions to oil pipelines stretching hundreds of kilometers.  Examples of possible employers include large international firms like URS or small, local firms like D & G EnviroGroup.

Non-Profit and Advocacy Organizations

EIA students may choose to work for an organization that promotes sustainability, rather than a private company that may potentially harm the environment through its actions.  These organizations stand to benefit from the strong research and analytical skills as well the data visualization and mapping strengths that an EIA program graduate gains in school.  Job duties may include research on environmental regulations or outreach to communities or corporations in efforts to encourage them to be more sustainable.  An example of a non-profit organization that might hire EIA graduates is Pollution Probe.  Inter- and non-governmental organizations that could benefit from the diverse skill set of an EIA graduate include the United Nations Environmental Program and the Nature Conservancy.

 Government

Because EIA is often mandated at the government level, there is no shortage of government career opportunities for graduating students trained in environmental assessment.  A government position for a recent EIA graduate may involve contributing to environmental impact assessment reviews or to the development and implementation of legislation.  He or she may also participate in writing, research, or analysis for environmental assessments conducted by the department or agency in which he or she is placed.  In Canada, government EIA jobs are available with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency or the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.

Do EIA professionals need a Professional Order?

As a student member in Institute for Environmental Management (IEMA) and Assessment and the German Environmental Impact Assessment Society I have gained an insight into voluntary professional organizations that promote best practices, professional development and professional ethics amongst its members.

EIA is sometimes portrayed as a biased regulatory process that allows proponents and consultants to hide or minimize the significance of a project’s environmental impacts. Comparing EIA professionals to Charted Professional Accountants, I will explore, if the work of EIA professionals needs to be regulated and organized in a professional order to ensure impartiality, scientific rigour and professional ethics.

The Adversarial Nature of EIA

In most jurisdictions EIA frameworks, the proponent has the responsibility to describe the project’s potential environmental impacts during the preparation of the environmental impact statement (EIS). This responsibility is often contracted to environmental consultancies or engineering consulting firms who prepare these documents for the proponent [1].

This arrangement has an inherent conflict of interest. The proponent prefers the EIA to find minimal environmental impacts to facilitate the development process and to avoid the imposing of potentially costly mitigation measures. The consultants preparing the EIS are contracted and paid by the proponent to find and assess environmental impacts [2]. The consultants work with uncertain project data provided by the proponent and have to work on a fixed schedule and budget, which prevents them from doing their job properly [2; 1].

Beder [3] notes that EIA professionals generally would not risk their reputation by publishing false date or by omitting negative impacts in their report. By using uncertainties in the results or using their expert judgment, an EIA professional can interpret his or her results with a certain level of subjectivity. While some argue that these biases in impact statements can be resolved during project review, evidence shows that this is often difficult because of uncertainty and a lack of data [4].

Chartered Professional Accountants

In order to reduce the potential for bias in the preparation of EIA documentation and to ensure that professionals have the right qualifications, the EIA profession should be organized and regulated with a professional order like accountants, doctors, lawyers or engineers.

Accountants are similar to EIA professionals. The public and the government trust in accountants to be impartial and unbiased when preparing financial audits, even through they are paid by the audited entity. In Quebec, accountants must be members of the Order of Chartered Professional Accountants of Quebec to work in the profession. The order was established by provincial legislation. CPAs must adhere to a strict Code of Ethics, have professional conduct rules, must complete an annual minimum of professional development courses and their compliance is regularly inspected by the Order [5].

An Order for EIA Professionals

An EIA Order would work similarly: The government and the public trust EIA professionals to give a scientifically sound and unbiased study of a projects impacts, while being paid by the proponent.

In Canada and the United Kingdom, for example, organizations already exist that unify environmental professionals [6]. In the UK, IEMA has a register of EIA Practitioners. Applicants wishing to join must fulfill a strict set of criteria. IEMA also offers other environmental professional designations that are not specific to EIA, such the Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv) designation [7]. In Canada, an EIA professional can achieve the Environmental Professional (EP) or Environmental Professional in training (EPt) designation. While EP is open to all environmental professionals, there is a specific sub-qualification for EIA specialists. [8]

In both examples, a professional must adhere to the respective Codes of Practice or Conduct (see Canadian code in Box 1 below; for UK code, click here) and engage in continued professional development to keep their designation. Both organizations facilitate or organize training courses for its members and they require the payment of an annual membership fee. [7; 8].

As we have seen, the general framework for a professional order for EIA practitioners, with similar features to the Order of CPAs, is already in place:

  • Public Trust in Profession
  • Qualification to Join
  • Code of Ethics and Professional Practice
  • Continued Professional Development
  • Enforcement and Penalties

EIA legislation would need to be amended to make membership in the Order mandatory for all involved in preparing environmental impact statements. This would ensure that EIS authors follow strict codes of ethics and best practice and that they are qualified for the task. At the same time, it is important that the codes of ethics and professional deontology are followed; thus strict penalties must be in place and enforce to ensure that members of the order are fulfilling their duties and responsibilities to the client, the government, the public and the environment. Overall a professional order could improve the public’s trust and confidence in EIA practitioners and more importantly, their environmental assessment work.

This blog post, presents an initial idea to inspire thought about the topic and to encourage discussion about the EIA profession and the way it is organized in Canada. If you would like to share your thoughts and ideas on this topic, I invite you to comment below or to e-mail me at n_ahn@live.concordia.ca.

Box 1. EP Code of Ethics

References

[1] Wood, G. (2008). Thresholds and criteria for evaluating and communicating impact significance in environmental statements: ‘See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’? Environmental Impact Assessment Review , 28, 22-38.

[2] Noble, B., & Storey, K. (2005). Towards increasing the utility of follow-up in Canadian EIA. Environmental Impact Assessment Review , 25, 163-180.

[3] Beder, S. (1993, February). Bias and Credibility in Environmental Impact Assessment. Chain Reaction (68), pp. 28-30.

[4] Hollick, M. (1984). Who Should Prepare Environmental Impact Assessments? Environmental Management , 8 (3), 191-196.

[5] CPA Québec. (2014). The Profession and the Order. Retrieved January 21, 2014, from CPA Québec: http://cpa-quebec.com/the-profession-and-the-order

[6] McKenzie, V. (2010). The comparative benefits of the Certified Environmental Practitioner Program in Australia and New Zealand. Australasian Journal of Environmental Management , 17 (3), 176-186.

[7] IEMA. (2014). EIA Practitioners Code of Practice. Retrieved January 21, 2014, from Institute for Environmental Management and Assessment: http://www.iema.net/membership-eia-practitioners-code-of-conduct

[8] ECO Canada. (2014). Become an EP. Retrieved January 21, 2014, from ECO Canada: http://www.eco.ca/certification/become-an-ep/

Enbridge and the lack of risk management

Suncor refinery in East-Montreal. (credit: David Vilder)

Suncor refinery in East-Montreal. (credit: David Vilder)

Enbridge 9B. This name should ring a bell as it is everywhere in the media these days.

Enbridge, based in Alberta, is seeking approval from the National Energy Board (NEB) to reverse the flow and increase capacity of the pipeline from 240 000 to 300 000 barrels a day. The 9B section in question goes from Hamilton to Montreal and is part of a broader line that links Alberta to the Atlantic. According to Enbridge this project is a “critical step in ensuring Quebec’s future in refining and petrochemical industries”; it will safeguard over a thousand permanent jobs and generate substantial taxes revenues for municipalities (Enbridge, 2012).

The project has received strong support from Suncor, who operates the Montreal-East refinery as well as from the government of Quebec (Shields, 2013). Both Enbridge and Ultramar (operating the refinery in Levis) registered lobbyists in Quebec to improve social acceptability (Shields, 2013).  Both Premier Marois and the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks (MDDEFP) Yves-François Blanchet have been promising ‘consultations’ for months, yet now a few months before the first barrels are supposed to flow nothing has been done (Nadeau, 2013).

Enbridge's 9B pipeline

Enbridge’s 9B pipeline

Facing the government’s inaction, municipalities in Quebec have voiced their concern and on April 22nd 2013 the City of Montreal formally asked for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and a public hearing to be conducted by the MDDEFP (City of Montreal, 2013). That demand has yet to be answered (Côté & Croteau, 2013).

In Canada, pipelines fall under federal competence through the NEB. Critics argue that recent amendments to the National Energy Board Act through omnibus Bill C-38 gave the NEB power to screen potential participants from public hearings (Ruby, 2013). Ottawa’s support to Enbridge is the most heard open secret, especially after the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines (Shields, 2013).

However, there is still room for leverage from the provinces. Unless deemed frivolous, article 31.3 of Quebec’s Law on the Quality of the Environment (Loi sur la qualite de l’environnement) requires the government of Quebec to hold public hearings if formally asked by a municipality, person or group. In Ontario, where line 9B also faces strong opposition, the 2006 Clean Water Act could be used to require an independent EIA. Last August, Premier Kathleen Wynne strongly came against Enbridge and threatened to do a separate EIA if the project still showed environmental concerns (CBC, 2013).

One might argue why conduct another EIA when the NEB has already done one? A brief look at the actual report gives some hints. Three issues have been voluntarily left out of the scope. First, the impact of the 12% increase of production is left unaccounted for. The same goes for the increase of CO2 emissions in Quebec that will result from the extra supply. Third, and perhaps most importantly, effects from potential spills are completely ignored (Stantec, 2013).

Whistle-blower John Bolenbaugh wades through thick mud in the Kalamazoo River looking for leftover traces of oil from the July 2010 Enbridge tar sands pipeline spill.      John W. Poole/NPR     John Bolenbaugh stands in a forested stretch of the Kalamazoo River that borders a mobile home community in Battle Creek, Mich.     John Bolenbaugh stands in a forested stretch of the Kalamazoo River that borders a mobile home community in Battle Creek, Mich.     John W. Poole/NPR     Oil rings on trees only 50 feet from the nearest home show the height of the oil and water, and its proximity to the Baker Estates Mobile Home Park in Battle Creek.     Oil rings on trees only 50 feet from the nearest home show the height of the oil and water, and its proximity to the Baker Estates Mobile Home Park in Battle Creek.     John W. Poole/NPR     Michelle BarlondSmith and her husband lived in a riverfront trailer park. BarlondSmith says the sickening fumes from the oil lasted for months.     Michelle BarlondSmith and her husband lived in a riverfront trailer park. BarlondSmith says the sickening fumes from the oil lasted for months.     John W. Poole/NPR     One of dozens of houses along the Kalamazoo River sits empty since the spill. Enbridge offered to buy up most of the property along the river immediately after the spill, and most residents sold at deflated prices to escape the area.     One of dozens of houses along the Kalamazoo River sits empty since the spill. Enbridge offered to buy up most of the property along the river immediately after the spill, and most residents sold at deflated prices to escape the area.     John W. Poole/NPR     Children fish at a newly opened recreational area built by Enbridge on the Kalamazoo River. Posted signs warn that most of the fish is not safe to eat. These children were not aware of the oil spill and were not area residents.     Children fish at a newly opened recreational area built by Enbridge on the Kalamazoo River. Posted signs warn that most of the fish is not safe to eat. These children were not aware of the oil spill and were not area residents. (John W. Poole/NPR)

Whistle-blower John Bolenbaugh wades through thick mud in the Kalamazoo River looking for leftover traces of oil from the July 2010 Enbridge tar sands pipeline spill. (credit: John W. Poole/NPR)

From an EIA perspective, a pipeline is the perfect example of the need for scenario analysis. One of the main functions of this is risk management, and Enbridge’s performance with the latter is less than mediocre. In 2010 a rupture in the company’s line 6B spilled over 3.3 million litres of oil in the Kalamazoo River in what would be the largest onland spill in the history of the Unites States (Paris, 2013). Three years after the cleanup is still not complete. What’s more, between 1999 and 2010 over 800 spills occurred on Enbridge’s pipelines and almost all of the company’s pumping stations were recently deemed non-compliant by the NEB itself (Gignac & Schepper, 2013).

One wonders why the NEB insists on leaving potential spills out of the scope when Enbridge has such a history.

Whatch this video from the Off Island Gazette where The mayor of Ste-Justine-de-Newton, Patricia Domingos, explains how Enbridge has offered communities living near its pipeline donations to improve their emergency responder services.

Bibliography:

CBC. (2013, August 29). Pipeline   d’Enbridge : l’Ontario hausse le ton. Retrieved October 05, 2013, from CBC:   http://www.radio-canada.ca/regions/ontario/2013/08/28/016-enbridge-pipeline-wynne.shtml

City of Montreal. (2013, Avril 22). Déclaration.   Retrieved October 05, 2013, from   http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&ved=0CEMQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Ffiles.newswire.ca%2F643%2FEtude_Enbridge.pdf&ei=qLhQUr6FNsni4AOAkYGADw&usg=AFQjCNGNV-nADLmC818YOeXa4vkhI1oVqQ&bvm=bv.53537100,d.dmg

Côté, C., &   Croteau, M. (2013, Octobre 02). Oléoduc 9 d’Enbridge: le débat s’enflamme.   Retrieved October 05, 2013, from La   Presse:   http://www.lapresse.ca/environnement/pollution/201310/02/01-4695449-oleoduc-9-denbridge-le-debat-senflamme.php

Enbridge. (2012). Enbridge’s Line 9 Pipeline:   Open House. Calgary: Enbridge.

Gignac, R., & Schepper, B. (2013). Projet d’oléoduc   de sables bitumineux « Ligne 9B » : le Québec à l’heure des choix. Montreal:   Institut de recherche et d’informations socio-économiques (IRIS).

Nadeau, J. (2013,   Octobre 04). Ligne 9B d’Enbridge – Il y aura consultation, assure le   ministre. Le Devoir.

Paris, M. (2013, September 2013). Enbridge’s   Kalamazoo cleanup dredges up 3-year-old oil spill. Retrieved October 06,   2013, from CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/enbridge-s-kalamazoo-cleanup-dredges-up-3-year-old-oil-spill-1.1327268

Ruby, C. (2013, August 18). Harper government   unfairly limits public input on Enbridge pipeline. Retrieved October 05,   2013, from The Star: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2013/08/18/harper_government_unfairly_limits_public_input_on_enbridge_pipeline.print.html

Shields, A.   (2013, September 11). Inversion du pipeline – Enbridge se félicite de   l’ouverture du Québec. Le Devoir.

Stantec. (2013). Line 9B Reversal and Line 9   Capacity Expansion Project – Environmental and Socio-Economic Impact   Assessment – Addendum. Calgary: Enbridge.

Cumulative Environmental Effects and the British Columbia Mining Boom

Mining is an extractive industry that can cause considerable negative environmental effects, and is therefore often subject to the process of environmental impact assessment (EIA) in order to minimize those impacts while encouraging social and economic benefits.  These economic benefits can clearly be seen in British Columbia, where over the past 8 years, the mining industry’s revenues have doubled to $9.9 billion [1]. The mining boom occurring in BC brings with it lots of jobs, subsurface exploration, profit, but also environmental damage. See figure 1 below for some statistics on mining in BC.

An overview of the mining industry in British Columbia. Source: http://bc.ctvnews.ca/more/the-big-dig.

Figure 1. An overview of the mining industry in British Columbia. Source: http://bc.ctvnews.ca/more/the-big-dig.

The recent mining boom is courtesy of both an increasing worldwide demand for metals [2], as well as the construction of the Northwest Transmission Line (NTL) [1]. The NTL is a 344 km long transmission line that will carry electricity northwards, starting near Terrace and ending near Bob Quinn Lake in northern British Columbia [1]. The video below gives a fly-by of the NTL in all its glory.

An overview of the Northwest Transmission Line. Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0yJmmNMqIQ.

That creative use of Google Earth certainly makes the NTL seem like an impressive project, except for the fact that BC Hydro will be using taxpayers money to build it when it will be used by industry. Looking at the map below of the NTL, we can see the locations of the numerous potential mines in northwest BC. Eight of these mines will be in operation by 2015 [2].

Map of the area covered by the Northwest Transmission Line. Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bcgovphotos/5694167407/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Figure 2. Map of the area surrounding the Northwest Transmission Line. Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bcgovphotos/5694167407/sizes/m/in/photostream/.

A major issue when multiple projects take place in the same geographical location is that of cumulative environmental effects.

Cumulative environmental effects are defined as “changes to the environment caused by an action in combination with other past, present, and future actions” [3].

Mining can have considerable negative effects including leachate from waste rock and tailing ponds, to the blasting of solid rock [4]. Water quality often suffers as a result of these releases of chemicals. In addition to these effects, one must also consider those of the accompanying infrastructure such as access roads and transmission lines. Under the BC Environmental Assessment Act (BCEAA), there is no requirement for cumulative effects assessments [5]. This is a major deficiency of the BCEAA. When examined separately, these mines may be mitigated to a sufficient degree, but when you consider all the potential impacts from all the potential mines, the environmental degradation could be insurmountable. The BC Environmental Assessment Office is being flooded with applications from this area [6] and will be under a lot of pressure from both industry and individuals seeking a new “gold rush”.

Major reforms to the EIA system in BC are required in order to minimize impacts on the environment, while providing opportunities for the population of BC, including First Nations communities. The creation of legislative requirements for cumulative environmental effects is just one step that needs to be taken to improve the EIA process in BC.

For more information on the mining boom in British Columbia and the impacts it can cause, have a look at CTV News’ series the big dig.

References

[1] Watson, E. (2012). “B.C. mining boom triggers new gold rush.” Retrieved from <http://bc.ctvnews.ca/b-c-mining-boom-triggers-new-gold-rush-1.956886> on January 21st, 2013.

[2] Findlay, A. (2011). “Critics claim mineral exploration in B.C. needs more accountability.” Retrieved from <http://www.straight.com/news/critics-claim-mineral-exploration-bc-needs-more-accountability> on January 20th, 2013.

[3] Noble, B. (2010). Introduction to Environmental Impact Assessment: Guide to Principles and Practice (2nd edition). Toronto: Oxford University Press.

[4] Environment Canada. (2012), “Mining.” Retrieved from <http://www.ec.gc.ca/pollution/default.asp?lang=En&n=C6A98427-1> on January 20th, 2013.

[5] Booth, A., and N. Skelton. (2011). “Industry and government perspectives on First Nations’ participation in the British Columbia environmental assessment process.” Environmental Impact Assessment Review 31: 216-225.

[6] Pollon, C. (2012). “Reinvent Environmental Assessment in BC, Say Critics.” Retrieved from <http://thetyee.ca/News/2012/11/08/Reinvent-Environmental-Assessment-in-BC/> on January 19th, 2013.