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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Public participation in the Environmental Assessment and Review Process : the role of intervenor funding Cooper, Judith Patricia


This thesis examines the opportunities for public participation in the federal Environmental Assessment and Review Process (EARP) and the influence of intervenor funding on that input; the application of EARP to Military Flying Activites in Labrador and Quebec is used as a case study. The analytical approach is critical and based on a public interest perspective. Five research questions are posed based on an interpretation of four normative objectives for the EAR Process and identification of several areas of EARP that restrict public access to decision making. The research questions ask to what extent intervenor funding would increase overall participation in the Process; whether funding would affect the ability of intervenors to be involved in stages of the Process where public input is limited; whether intervenor funding would ensure that the values and interests of public groups are more actively considered at each stage of the Process; how intervenor funding affects the quality and quantity of public input to the Process; and how the administration of the funding program affects public participation in the case study. Questionnaires were developed from these questions and three participant groups in the case study were interviewed. The results of these interviews are summarized and evaluated against the normative objectives and a set of six evaluative criteria - representativeness, educational, accountability, fairness, effectiveness, and efficiency. The criteria are developed from a theoretical rationale for financially supported public participation in EARP. The first general conclusion of this research is that the EAR Process is fundamentally flawed. Notwithstanding incremental reforms like intervenor funding, the assumptions of Environmental Impact Assessment and the structure of EARP treat project assessment as a project specific venture amenable to prediction and technical analysis. In fact is is inseparable from a value-laden and political development planning process. The EAR Process understates this essentially political character yet vests the most significant decision making author^ in the hands of those with the most to gain from project development. After recognition of this problem, this analysis makes recommendations, based on the analysis of the case study, that could assist EARP in approaching the normative objectives. First, while the proponent improved public consultation by 1985, and in the formal review, public involvement in the Initial Environmental Evaluation (IEE) in 1981 was inadequate. I therefore recommend that the affected publics be involved in decision making at the initial assessment stage of EARP and allowed an avenue of appeal. To support this recommendation the information used for initial assessment decisions needs to be comprehensive and readily accessible. In addition FEARO should provide an independent audit of these decisions. Second, while financial support to caribou research by the proponent since 1986 is laudable, project monitoring should have occurred since the release of the IEE. I therefore recommend that project monitoring be a required element of any application of the EAR Process, after an IEE and a formal review; it should include the affected publics in an advisory capacity and during implementation. Third, the EAR Process does not effectively deal with issues of fundamentally differing values; in this case study the viability of territories under land claims negotiations and the militarization of the Canadian arctic are avoided and unfairly unrepresented. To deal with this problem I recommend that public input be sought when drafting of the Panel's Terms of Reference for a public review. Fourth, information was withheld from intervenors from several government departments during the review. All government departments should be legally required to supply prompt and complete responses to reasonable information requests when they pertain to any stage of the EAR Process. Fifth, the funding program has so far been well administered; while funding has increased public access to the Process for remote settlements, further study is required to assess whether funds were sufficient to allow adequate regional representation. Finally, the credibility of the funding program is thrown into doubt by the participation of the Department of Regional Industrial Expansion in setting up an independent funding committee, their withdrawal from the same, and later support for a pro-development group after the funding was disbursed. An intervenor funding policy is required to regularize funding allocation from one independent agency for the duration of the review.

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