British Columbia’s auditor general says the province has failed to adequately address the long-term environmental impact of its resource-development decisions.
Carol Bellringer issued a report Tuesday, saying that building roads, logging forests and exploring gas fields come with environmental, social and cultural consequences, but the government is not doing enough to consider them.
Her report, Managing the Cumulative Effects of Natural Resource Development in B.C., makes nine recommendations, including giving the Forests, Lands and Resource Operations Ministry authority to manage a program that oversees the potential effects of resource projects.
“Decisions regarding natural-resource development are being made without fully understanding the implications for the environment and the well-being of British Columbians,” Bellringer told a news conference.
“The ministry is working to support cumulative affects management, but more needs to be done.”
She said she’s aware the government is planning a phased-in process that considers the wide-ranging impacts of resource-project decisions, but it will not be complete until 2021, and comes with no firm guidelines.
The report focused on B.C.’s northwest, but said that as of last year there were up to 160 resource projects potentially worth billions of dollars, but their environmental and social effects are not being properly considered.
Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson said in a statement that the government is committed to sustainable development and has been working on a cumulative effects policy for the past 18 months.
“We are confident that government’s cumulative effects framework supports our commitment to environmentally sound and sustainable natural resource development,” he said.
Opposition NDP environment critic Spencer Chandra Herbert said the report concludes the government does not take long-term environmental impacts seriously in its project decisions.
“The idea that you have to consider the whole of the ecosystem is probably as old as environmentalism itself,” he said. “When you don’t pay attention you get what’s happening in the northwest and the southeast of the province where the caribou is at risk of extinction because of so many other pressures.”