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Nova Scotia’s environmental assessment process needs improvement, says local organization

By Joe Thomson Sep 1, 2023 | 12:32 PM

eutrophication&hypoxia / CC

Nova Scotia has a handful of major infrastructure projects on the table from green hydrogen plants to Canada’s first ever offshore wind farm. But before any of those projects can go ahead, they must go through the environmental assessment process which some say needs a serious overhaul.

Karen McKendry is the Senior Wilderness Outreach Coordinator for the Ecology Action Centre, an organization dedicated to preserving and promoting Nova Scotia environment and wildlife. She says the current environmental assessment process is outdated and comes from a period when fighting climate change and preserving biodiversity was not top of mind.

“Times have changed in the last 15 years. There are things that both companies should be writing about… and things that the minister should be considering. Where I think this engagement around changing the process comes up short, is it is looking forward. So, it comes from the premise that things are going fine,” said McKendry.

She wants to see a couple of changes that she thinks would immediately improve the system. The first being extending the public consultation period of the environmental assessment process. Before any decision is made regarding a project, the public is given 30 days to provide their thoughts on whether it should go forward and why. That feedback is then presented to the minister of environment and climate change who makes the final call.

McKendry says 30 days is far too short of a time frame, especially considering most communities need to hire experts to make sense of the highly technical documents involved with any given project. Something that other jurisdictions provide funding for.

On top of that, she says it seems like the government often gives little to no consideration to the public consultations.

“I saw ideas from Mi’kmaw communities not being implemented, and I saw projects approved within eight days of getting public comments. That really does make me wonder whether that part of the process… is really being taken seriously,” said McKendry.

The Ecology Action Centre will provide the provincial government with a comprehensive list of feedback and thoughts on how to improve the environmental assessment process. Only time will tell if they get implemented.


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