UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

If you build it, will they come? Using historical development patterns to better anticipate future development scenarios for cumulative effects assessment Lerner, Jackie


In Canada and the United States, as in many other jurisdictions worldwide, environmental impact assessments required as part of the permitting process for proposed resource development projects include cumulative effects assessments. These aim to predict a proposed project’s environmental impacts in combination with those of past, present, and future projects. This last category of projects has been problematic for analysts. Detailed information about future projects is usually scant, and this limitation is often cited as a justification for excluding future projects from consideration. Conversely, a more speculative approach to estimating the potential economic benefits of future projects is widely accepted. Thus, the authorities responsible for permitting projects are often given restrictive assessments of environmental impacts and optimistic assessments of economic benefits. The goal of this dissertation is to introduce a practical approach to balancing the asymmetry described above—a method for considering induced development in CEA in order to give potential environmental impacts the same weight that potential economic benefits currently receive. To do this, I use the historical record to discern patterns of development that followed infrastructure. I do so in a specific geographic context and so develop empirical evidence of how projects build on top of preceding projects’ legacy of proximate services, labour, water and energy supplies, and routes to market. I then use this evidence to forecast the probable outcomes of permitting a proposed project in terms of likely future induced development. The initial iteration of the method uses British Columbia as a case study, and makes use of data on that province’s historical development. This first iteration is intended as a means of exploring and demonstrating the method’s value in a specific application, while providing a framework that can be refined and applied to other contexts.

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