EIA Country Report for British Columbia, Canada

Legal Framework
State, Country or Province: 
British Columbia, Canada
EIA law: 
Environmental Assessment Act
EIA Regulations: 
Public Consultation Policy Regulation, B.C. Reg. 373/2002; Reviewable Projects Regulation, B.C. Reg. 370/2002
EIA Guidelines or Other Guidance: 
Environmental Assessment Office User Guide (June 2015)
EIA Procedure
Projects Requiring EIA: 
Government projects
Projects Requiring EIA: 
Private projects
Abridged Assessments: 
Yes
Assessments Detail: 
Some agencies have a "referal process" (to other government agencies) at the permit application phase for situations where EIA is not triggered. However, referrals are hit and miss and environment agency officials do not always have the resources to contribute to this exercise.
Best Practices in Lieu of EIA: 
No
Who Conducts Screening: 
Government
Who Conducts Screening Detail: 
Reviewable Projects Regulation, B.C. Reg. 370/2002. Also, the minister may by order designate a project as reviewable if the minister is satisfied that the project may have significant adverse environmental, social, economic, heritage or health effect and the project has not substantially started. EA Act, sec. 6.
Criteria for Screening: 
List or appendix of project or activity types
Criteria for Screening: 
Proposed project or activity may cause significant environmental impact
Criteria for Screening Detail: 
Projects that are subject to environmental assessment are listed in the Reviewable Projects Regulation, B.C. Reg. 370/2002. Also, the minister may by order designate a project as reviewable if the minister is satisfied that the project may have significant adverse environmental, social, economic, heritage or health effect and the project has not substantially started. EA Act, sec. 6. Haddock (2010) notes that there are significant gaps in the Reviewable Projects Regulation that allow major development projects (e.g. exploratory oil drilling, agricultural industry, forest logging) to proceed without adequate consideration of environmental impacts. See Haddock, M. & ELC, "Environmental Assessment in British Columbia" p. 17 (available at http://www.elc.uvic.ca/publications/documents/ELC_EA-IN-BC_Nov2010.pdf)
Who Prepares EIA: 
Project Proponent (with or without contractor)
Who Prepares EIA Detail: 
Most project proponents engage a contractor to prepare the environmental assessment.
Who Pays for EIA: 
Project Proponent
EIA Contractor Qualifications: 
No
EIA Contractor Qualifications Detail: 
This is an important issue that needs to be addressed. It is not always a problem, but there are instances in which contractor qualifications are questionable.
Conflict of Interest: 
No
Conflict of Interest Detail: 
Conflicts of interest are an important issue that are not currently addressed.
Terms of Reference (TOR): 
Yes
Terms of Reference Detail: 
The executive director of the Environmental Assessment Office or his/her delegate has broad discretion to determine the scope of the assessment, and the procedures and methods for carrying it out on an individual project basis, all of which is formalized in an order. EA Act, sec. 11(1)
Days for Decisionmaker Review: 
180
Automatic Approval: 
No
Written Decision: 
Yes
Written Decision Detail: 
The EAO must write an assessment report, and its executive director makes recommendations to the political ministers. The minister does not issue any further written decisions, and typically just signs a certificate (provided by the EAO) approving the project.
Authority to Impose Conditions: 
Yes
Authority to Impose Conditions Details: 
Ministers must attach any conditions to the environmental assessment certificate that the Ministers consider necessary. EA Act sec. 17(3)(c)
Expiry of Decision: 
3-5 years
Expiry of Decision Detail: 
"An environmental assessment certificate must specify a deadline, at least 3 years and not more than 5 years after the issue date of the certificate, by which time the holder of the certificate, in the reasonable opinion of the minister, must have substantially started the project." EA Act, sec. 18(1)
Financial Assurances or Bond: 
No
EIA Content
Interdisciplinary Team: 
No
Range of Alternatives: 
No
Range of Alternatives Detail: 
Neither the Environmental Assessment Act nor its regulations specify mandatory content for environmental assessment reports. The Executive Director of the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) has discretion to determine the content of the EIA. See EA Act, sec. 11 (EAO has discretion to determine assessment scope, procedures and methods)
No Action Alternative: 
No
No Action Alternative Detail: 
Neither the Environmental Assessment Act nor its regulations specify mandatory content for environmental assessment reports. The Executive Director of the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) has discretion to determine the content of the EIA. See EA Act, sec. 11 (EAO has discretion to determine assessment scope, procedures and methods)
Type(s) of Impact Analysis: 
Direct environmental impacts
Type(s) of Impact Analysis: 
Cumulative environmental impacts
Type(s) of Impact Analysis: 
Social impacts
Mitigation: 
No
Mitigation Detail: 
Mitigation measures or plans are not required by law or addressed in the Environmental Assessment Act, nor are there formal mitigation policies or rules that guide mitigation plans. Nevertheless, mitigation measures are expected and are commonly included in assessments.
Access to Information
Draft EIA Available Detail: 
The public sees the "final" EIA that is submitted for approval, but does not see any subsequently edited versions, if any, that may reflect the developer's response to public input.
Draft EIA Locations: 
Not Available
Public Notice of Final EIA: 
Yes
Public Notice of Final EIA Detail: 
B.C. Reg. 373/2002 (Public Consultation Policy Regulation), sec. 5
Final EIA Available: 
Yes
Final EIA Available Detail: 
The EIA is made available on the website of the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO).
Final EIA Locations: 
Internet
Final EIA Locations: 
Agency or ministry office
Fee to View EIA Documents: 
No
Fee to Obtain EIA Documents: 
No
Availability of Reference Studies: 
Yes
Availability of Reference Studies Detail: 
B.C. Reg. 373/2002 (Public Consultation Policy Regulation), secs. 6(1)(k) & (l)
Public Notice of Final Decision: 
Yes
Public Notice of Final Decision Detail: 
B.C. Reg. 373/2002 (Public Consultation Policy Regulation), sec. 6(1)(c)
Public Participation
Public Scoping: 
Yes
Public Review of TOR: 
Yes
Public Review of TOR Detail: 
The Environmental Assessment Office issues a draft "Application Information Requirements" identifying the issues to be addressed in the assessment. The EAO seeks feedback on the AIR from a working group, First Nations, and the public.
Public Participation Opportunities: 
Scoping
Public Participation Opportunities: 
Terms of reference
Public Participation Opportunities: 
Public meetings and/or public hearings
Public Participation Opportunities: 
Review of final EIA
Public Meetings: 
Yes
Public Input at Meeting: 
Yes
Criteria to Hold Public Meeting: 
Public meeting and/or hearing is automatically required
Criteria to Hold Public Meeting: 
Other
Days for Public to Review Draft EIA: 
0
Days for Public to Review Final EIA: 
30-75
Public Comments on Draft EIA: 
No
Public Comments on Final EIA: 
Yes
Public Comments on Final EIA Detail: 
B.C. Reg. 373/2002 (Public Consultation Policy Regulation), sec. 7(1)
Response to Public Comments: 
No
Response to Public Comments Detail: 
EAO officials do not normally respond to public comments. The proponent must prepare a "response table" that indicates their response to public comments received, but the public does not see this until after the project is approved, and does not know how the EAO considers their comments or the adequacy of the proponent's response to those comments. These matters are addressed in an "assessment report" that is released after politicians have decided whether to approve the project.
Facilitation of Public Participation: 
Yes
Facilitation of Public Participation Detail: 
There are provisions to encourage participation from First Nations. This is required by common law, i.e. court decisions imposing on government a duty of consultation due to constitutionally protected rights of indigenous groups (known in Canada as First Nations). The Crown must consult First Nations any time it knows of an asserted aboriginal right (including title) and it is considering an action or decision that could adversely affect that right.
Judicial Review/Enforcement
Citizen Administrative Review: 
No
Citizen Judicial Review: 
Yes
Citizen Judicial Review Detail: 
Only if there are legal grounds to support judicial review. The Act is highly discretionary, so there are seldom legal grounds. Judicial review is not available to challenge the adequacy of an EIA -- only illegality.
Project Monitoring: 
Yes
Project Monitoring Detail: 
There is broad agreement, even within government, that monitoring provisions are weak. The EAO does not have field staff, so they expect other agencies to be their "eyes and ears." Those agencies often feel it is not their job or mandate.
Enforceability of EIA: 
No
Enforceability of EIA Detail: 
It is not required by statute, but would be part of a court's consideration of whether the litigant has standing.
Enforceability of Permit: 
No
   Updated 16 Jun, 2016