UBC Theses and Dissertations
Environmental impact assessment and its role in regional development planning Tanner, Diane Janet
This study documents strengths and weaknesses inherent in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), as currently practiced at the federal level in Canada. Two case studies are examined—the Beaufort Sea hydrocarbon development and production Environmental Assessment and Review Process (EARP), and the West Coast offshore hydrocarbon exploration EIA (a joint federal/provincial review). By examining current strengths and weaknesses valuable lessons can be learned and utilized in adapting the role of EIA within wider planning processes. The major objective of this study is to determine how the West Coast EIA can contribute to a more considered approach to development planning in the West Coast region. The study reviews relevant literature on planning and EIA to provide information on theoretical relationships between EIA and planning. This provided a basis for evaluating strengths and weaknesses of the Beaufort Sea EARP. The West Coast EIA was compared and contrasted to the Beaufort Sea EARP to determine what lessons had been learned from the latter review. Based on this evaluation, suggestions were made on ways in which the West Coast EIA, principally through the panel's recommendations, could contribute both to improvements in EARP, and to effective planning and management of West Coast offshore hydrocarbon resources. Evaluation of the two case studies revealed that there are both strengths and weaknesses evident in EIA. Major strengths are the comprehensive scope of the reviews, public involvement, and, in the case of the Beaufort Sea EARP, the provision of intervenor funding, and, a unique opportunity to examine government's management capability. Both EIAs are affected by similar external circumstances--the lack of a coordinated policy and planning framework, and outstanding native claims. The Beaufort Sea EARP panel failed to make the most of its opportunity to address the partial policy and planning vacuum. The West Coast EIA panel still has an opportunity to address the partial vacuum within which it is operating. The Beaufort Sea EARP and West Coast EIA both examine preliminary project proposals associated with hydrocarbon activities. However, the Beaufort Sea EARP panel provided little guidance on how such preliminary EIAs should be handled in future, or recommendations on subsequent project specific EIA requirements. The thesis suggests ways in which the West Coast EIA can avoid repeating this deficiency. There is a definite weakness in EARP procedure. As a one-shot approach, EARP focuses on the product (the Environmental Impact Statement) rather than on environmental management as an ongoing, continuous process. Thus, the Beaufort Sea EIA process ended after the panel submitted its Final Report, and it appears that the same will apply for the West Coast. EIA review. Consequently, there is no guarantee that management-oriented monitoring, which should be an integral part of EIA, will be undertaken. This study concludes that if the West Coast EIA is to make a valuable contribution to regional development planning the panel should more fully utilize the information it receives than previous panels have done. Moreover, it must clearly establish and document in its Final Report the major issues and concerns impeding orderly development of the region. How will these concerns interfere with hydrocarbon exploration and other resource uses? How can governments act to resolve these outstanding issues? This requires going beyond merely documenting future data and research requirements to a consideration of the policy, planning and institutional requirements for rational development of West Coast resources. I suggest several major issues deserving of focused attention: lack of a coordinated regional planning framework; project need assessment; jurisdictional dispute; outstanding native claims; future project specific EIA requirements; community involvement in future assessments; monitoring; intervenor funding; and compensation. The panel, of course, may uncover other issues and concerns.
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