Scope of Environmental Assessment
Overview of BC Law
If a proposed mining activity triggers an EA in BC, the EAO Executive Director (or minister where applicable) must specify the scope of the EA.86 The scoping stage identifies the following aspects of the EA review:87
- the appropriate scale for review on a geographic (site-specific, regional or both) and temporal (historical, present and future) basis;
- the information and analysis necessary for decision-making;
- the issues and effects that will be considered in the EA, including potential cumulative environmental effects; and
- the persons and organizations to be notified of and consulted during the assessment, including the public, First Nations, government agencies and neighbouring jurisdictions.
In the following sections the law governing each of these aspects is considered and recommended solutions are provided for improvements based on examples from other jurisdictions.
Apart from the public consultation requirement (see: Public Consultation Process for Environmental Assessment, below), there is no mandatory EA content provided under BC law.88 Although proponents, technical experts, the public and First Nations may input on the appropriate content, the EAO Executive Director (or Minister if this task is referred to him or her) has significant discretion in determining the EA content. Without prescribed minimum standards, there is a risk that important factors will not be consistently assessed for projects proposed at different times and/or in different regions across the province.
Develop minimum content requirements for EAs
[Tags: EA; Content; Minimum Standards]
Unlike BC, numerous jurisdictions clearly specify minimum EA content requirements – for example:
- US federal law specifies a standard format for EAs that must be followed unless the regulatory authority deems that there is a compelling reason to deviate from these requirements. Even if there is a compelling reason to deviate from the legal requirements, some of the minimum requirements must still be met in all cases.89
- Alberta law specifies minimum EA content requirements including: an analysis of the need for the activity; an analysis of the site selection procedure for the proposed activity; areas of major concern that should be considered; and an identification of issues related to human health that should be considered.90
- Both European Union91 and United Kingdom92 laws list minimum EA content requirements.
- Chinese law specifies the following minimum EA content requirements: description of the proposed project; baseline environmental conditions; prediction and evaluation of environmental impacts; economic and technical analysis of mitigation measures; cost–benefit analysis of environmental impacts; proposal for monitoring; and conclusions of the EA.93
- South African law specifies minimum content requirements for basic assessment and EA reports.94