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Environmental Assessment panel rolls through Halifax

Charlene Morton, Marion Moore, Robin Tress, and Marilyn Keddy at the EA review panel in Halifax.

On Monday I joined Charlene Morton, Marion Moore, and Marilyn Keddy from the South Shore chapter as they presented their recommendations to the environmental assessment (EA) review panel in Halifax. Their recommendations focused on the need for transparency and accessibility of information in the process, the need for vastly improved public participation mechanisms, and the inclusion of climate change commitments and targets in the EA process.

The lack of transparency in environmental assessments was made strikingly clear as one panelist asked if the presenters knew that there were currently two EAs being conducted on the south shore. Despite their obvious interest in the issues, they were not aware of these assessments. This lack of transparency carries over to provincial EAs as well, as seen in the Alton Gas project.

The concerns they presented to the EA review panel spawn out of a new campaign to reform the Canada Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB), which approves offshore oil projects like the one Shell just started off the south shore of Nova Scotia.  The project was recommended by the CNSOPB despite opposition from local fishers, an inadequate emergency response plan, and the global need to stop developing new fossil fuel resources to avoid further climate change.

Several other speakers, including Lisa Mitchell from East Coast Environmental Law (ECELAW), and Mary Gorman from Save our Seas and Shores, gave recommendations that were grounded in experiences of environmental injustice in Nova Scotia.

Lisa Mitchell, who is the lawyer fighting the Bilcon Quarry NAFTA case, talked about the case ECELAW has against the NAFTA tribunal regarding a quarry on the Digby Neck of Nova Scotia, spoke about the need for Nova Scotia’s environmental assessment process to not just assess project and recommend ways for them to be less harmful to the environment and community, but assess whether proposals actually contribute to the sustainability of the region. 

Mary Gorman, who has worked on a campaign to keep offshore oil developments out of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence for almost two decades, noted that Canadian panels like the CNSOPB are made to enable things to move forward. “There are times when that isn’t appropriate,” she said, naming current and future development of offshore oil as a something that should be stopped. These panels and their unscrupulous nature comes with a real peril for people in communities impacted by inappropriate developments.

The panel members seemed keenly engaged in the issue, and very aware that environmental assessments as they stand are simply not acceptable.

Keep an eye on the Council’s involvement in the EA review panel by reading Emma and Diane’s 4-part series on the issue, and following us on Twitter!