Posted November 19, 2019
Ethics Commissioner should investigate environmental assessment interference in Fraser Estuary project
The Boundary Bay Conservation Committee (BBCC) has sent a letter to the Canadian Ethics Commissioner, Prime Minister Trudeau, and Premier John Horgan requesting termination of the environmental assessment of the Roberts Bank Container Terminal 2 Project (RBT2). BBCC exposed political interference that muzzled reports submitted by Government scientists.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) placed unreasonable limitations on the scope of the assessment and denied meaningful public participation through restrictive measures and an interpretation of the law that is not supported in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.
The Harper Conservative Government gutted environmental protection under the Omnibus Bill of 2012. It is patently unacceptable that the current Canadian Liberal Government now continues environmental assessment under that outdated, ambiguous, weak 2012 CEAA legislation.
The Canadian government allowed the proponent, the Port of Vancouver, to constrain the Terms of Reference. Impacts beyond the Project footprint such as air pollution are not included in the environmental assessment. A 2019 ‘Near-Road Air Pollution Pilot Study Final Report’, states that near-road emissions from highly polluting diesel trucks dramatically increase concentrations of toxic air pollutants.
The B.C. Government, also assessing the Project, has not stepped up to protect Greater Vancouver residents who will be significantly impacted by congestion, and air pollution from larger vessels, trains, plus double the number of container trucks.
The Port of Vancouver paid scientists for reports that were not peer reviewed. At the public hearings, and in reports, the port actively discredited and disparaged Environment Canada scientists in a rarely seen criticism of one government agency by another. The rebuttals from Environment Canada in closing comments were muzzled in Ottawa and were never sent to the Review Panel that was appointed to oversee the environmental assessment and report to the Minister of Environment.
It is now the end of 2019, six years after the initiation of the environmental assessment, and yet the federal Liberals and the BC Government support the flawed process for a massive, man-made island in the Fraser River Estuary for Terminal 2. This precious delta has global significance for salmon, resident Killer Whales and migratory birds. This is Canada’s top Important Bird Area (IBA), a Ramsar Site, a Wildlife Management Area and the highest designation site under the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network. Their misguided plan is to dredge 460 acres in the estuary and build the island with fill that is toxic.
BBCC was not permitted to address the ambiguity in the CEAA 2012 legislation at the public hearing of the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project. The Review Panel chose to operate under an interpretation of CEAA 2012 that is not supported in the Act, the Terms of Reference or the Mandate of the Review Panel. Three years after their appointment, and six years after the beginning of the environmental assessment in 2013, the Review Panel publicly announced an unsupported interpretation of the law:
“…According to CEAA 2012 the Panel is required to look at the purpose of the project but not the need for the project. Its mandate is to examine a specific container terminal proposed by a proponent and evaluate its environmental effects and not where the B.C. West Coast requires the development of a container terminal.”
This illegal restrictive proclamation makes no sense to the public who participated in the process and wrote submissions with evidence that there is no business case for Roberts Bank Terminal 2. They also showed how other locations in British Columbia are more suited to port expansion for containers. The proclamation means the Review Panel has no intention of including this evidence in their report.
The Port of Vancouver is a government corporation under the responsibility of Transport Canada. In conflict of interest, the Deputy Minister of Transport has been in direct contact with the Review Panel which is supposed to operate independently of government. Similarly, the Review Panel has been corresponding with the Deputy Ministers of Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, and Health.
Reports from federal Government scientists should have been submitted directly to the Independent Review Panel. Instead, the reports have been orchestrated, altered and withheld at the Deputy Minister level before they ever reach the Review Panel. Closing comments from Environment Canada scientists, sent to Ottawa, were never submitted to the Review Panel. Apparently Transport Canada ordered that none of the federal agencies were permitted to submit closing comments in spite of the Review Panel’s request for closing comments.
The B.C. Government is also in conflict of interest in the B.C. Assessment, as it made a legal requirement to include information from the Gateway Transportation Collaboration Forum, a narrowly focused group of vested interests that has received millions in tax dollars.
The B.C. Government also improperly transferred BC estuarine wetlands to the federal government to facilitate RBT2 even though the Project has not yet been approved.
All of the above confirms the public’s perception that the “fix was in”.