Josette Wier, 4259 McCabe Rd, Smithers, BC, V0J 2N7
Tel: 250 8478743
May 18, 2017
Kevin Jardine, ADM, Environmental Assessment Office, Victoria, BC
sent by e-mail to Kevin.Jardine@gov.bc.ca
Dear Mr. Jardine:
This is an official complaint about the way the EAO is failing the public in the assessment of the Aurora LNG plant proposal on Digby island. I contend that EAO is not meeting its commitment to the public outlined in the Substitution Agreement. I also question the bias EAO shows towards Nexen, bending to their needs and deadlines. The present regulatory process presently shows that it is principally aimed at mitigating anticipated harms, and does not attempt to provide a balanced evaluation of the project.
THE SUBSTITUTION AGREEMENT
Under Requirements for a Substituted Environmental Assessment Section 4b)ii one reads BC has committed to “give the public an opportunity to participate in the environmental assessment process and provide access to records in relation to the assessment, to enable the meaningful participation of the public”.
My experience shows this has not been the case:
1-the public was poorly notified of the suspension of the review
2-the commenting public is ignored
3-by being very difficult to navigate, the website acts as a deterrent
4-there is a parallel process with working groups with release of new documents not available to the public, not even the commenting public who raised issues which may be addressed in those documents.
THE PUBLIC WAS POORLY NOTIFIED OF THE SUSPENSION OF THE REVIEW
• While the public was given very strict deadlines for providing comments, this did not apply to Nexen which was given an arbitrary “extra time” until May 15
• Writing this past May 15, there is still NO information on the website about the date for thoseundefined promised engagements and deliverables, and no penalty for this missed promise.
• There was no notification of the suspension in the News/Release section of the website
• The only notification of the suspension came from a RSS feed which merely referred to yourletter to be found somewhere in the website
• At no point was the public directly informed of the suspension, which consisted only of 2 letters inconveniently placed in 2 different folders in the website.
THE COMMENTING PUBLIC IS IGNORED
• There were more than 500 comments presented to EAO, many of them thoroughly researched exposing the gaps of knowledge in the proposal
• Those comments are presented on the website in the worst possible manner in 584 pages pasted one after another, impossible to search, to copy or quote.
Simply put, it conveys a lack of respect as well as any hope that those comments will be given any weight. This is in sharp contrast with my experience as an intervenor in the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal and with providing comments to the Roberts Bank Terminal under CEAA. With Northern Gateway, as a registered intervenor, I was allowed to make written information requests to which Enbridge had to respond. I recall 3 rounds of such. For the Roberts Terminal assessment, my comments allowed me to be on a mailing list for CEAA to keep me informed of the evolution of the application.
THE WEBSITE IS DIFFICULT TO NAVIGATE
• This is the most unfriendly website I have ever used and I have used many
• If one is lucky to find the document one is looking for, copying and pasting are impossible
• The search function is deficient as I found when I tried “substitution agreement”
• I have already commented on the lack of News/Release and the deficient RSS feed
The poor quality of the website is a deterrent to the public wishing to find information and is consistent with the general disregard EAO is showing towards keeping the public informed on this project.
DOCUMENTS ARE RELEASED WHICH ARE NOT ACCESSIBLE TO THE PUBLIC
• The role of the working groups is unclear. I note that they are mostly composed of different ministry’s representatives but no contact is given to discuss the issues with our public servants and bring our concerns to the fore.
• Also, it is most likely that those public servants are communicating the views of their respective governments (provincial and federal) which both have indicated their support for such projects. This brings a significant bias and partiality to the process.
• The website posted the minutes of the last working group meeting 1 month after it took place and there are mentions of new documentation Nexen brought to the table. This documentation is not posted on the website.
The above barriers to public participation do not comply with the MOU on the Substitution process. This is also in opposition to the statements of the then Minister of Environment Leona Aqlukkaq to Mary Polak, BC Minister of Environment, in the Substitution Approval conditions she attached to her letter of Aug 12, 2014:
The public will be given an opportunity to participate in the environmental assessment. The public will have access to records in relation to the environmental assessment to enable their meaningful participation
As it stands, the EAO has shown a low level of compliance with its obligations towards the public from the Substitution Agreement and Approval. I contend it does not comply with both. I therefore request that all Nexen added documentation to the proposal be posted on the website with an invitation to comment.
I also request that the EAO summary of public comments be circulated to those who provided comments to verify EAO’s interpretation of what was presented. I further request that the public be given the opportunity to comment on Nexen’s response to their comments. Sadly many of the issues related to complaints from the public regarding accessibility and transparency were identified in the EAO report “ The role of public consultation in Environmental Assessment: Phase One Report 2015” which recommended amid others “Improve accessibility of project information on the EAO website as a communications and data analysis tool”. The present website does not align with this goal.
The Phase One report says EAO should “communicate clearly and in a timely way with the public about how their input was considered in the environmental assessment process”. This is not being done.
In summary, I contend that EAO is not complying with the Substitution Agreement by not allowing “meaningful” public participation.
I look forward to your response to the points I have brought to your attention.
cc: Hon. Catherine McKenna,, Environment Canada,
Nathan Cullen, MP
Jennifer Rice, MLA