Alberni city council calls for independent coal panel

Port Alberni has added its name to the list of municipalities calling for the Raven Coal Mine project to be examined by an independent review panel.

City councillors endorsed the report from city manager Ken Watson at their Monday meeting and referred the matter to a joint federal-provincial environmental review panel.

According to Watson, the current federal/provincial review process rigorously examines the environmental, social and economic impacts of the project.

As well, it provides ample opportunity to receive and review public comment, and effectively resolves issues between government and the company.

But staff drives the process, other agencies’ inputs are received through working groups, and the minister makes the final decision.

An independent panel would employ the same quality of experts, be just as rigorous, and still require ministerial sign off, the report noted.

But the panel would be more transparent, and would offer more opportunity for stakeholders to question findings by the company.

Watson wouldn’t speculate on what impact moving to a panel process would have on the project.

“That would depend on the viewpoints of the individuals selected by the minister to sit on the panel,” he said.

Council requested the report after an Alberni Environmental Coalition (AEC) presentation last April, in which they asked council to refer it to a panel.

The federal environment minister’s approval is required for the panel’s creation.

But it could only be created if the project had “significant” adverse environmental impact and if enough public concern warranted it.

The writing may already be on the wall though about the success of creating a panel.

According to Watson’s report, neither federal nor provincial officials are considering a move towards a panel.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has also placated one the criterion required to create a panel.

The agency referred to comments received during the initial comments period of the process in a document it posted online.

The agency has “…not identified significant adverse environmental affects that may result from the project after applying standard mitigation measures.”

A change of pace is needed Mayor Ken McRae said in a telephone interview.

“My whole life I’ve been for open independent process,” he said.

Decision makers in the existing process take their cues from staff and the public’s input isn’t necessarily given the same weight.

“I have a problem with that,” McRae said.

An independent panel process “is as open as you can get,” he added.

The move is the right approach, AEC official Jane Armstrong said.

In the existing process, the company hires experts to do studies for them.

The panel process sees government hire experts, who are open to public scrutiny.

“Port Alberni deserves the most rigorous process under the current legislation,” Armstrong said.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

Just Posted

Team Harrison prevails in Port Alberni men’s bonspiel

Annual bonspiel drew 20 teams from out of town

Wedding plans derailed following City of Port Alberni’s train announcement

Five wedding parties are scrambling to find alternate transportation arrangements to McLean… Continue reading

Kids help Alberni Aquarium build rockfish luminary for next exhibit

Swimming For Change takes over in time for spring break

Spring fishery closures mulled for south coast

Fewer fish are returning to rivers and more conservation needed, say feds

One dead, two seriously injured in Hwy 4 crash west of Port Alberni

A man has died following a single-vehicle collision west of Port Alberni… Continue reading

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

Girl heard saying ‘Help my Dad’ in suspicious radio message on Vancouver Island

Police asking for help following mysterious signals from somewhere between Comox and Sayward

Two more measles cases confirmed in Vancouver

It brings the number of total cases within the city connected to the outbreak to ten

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Vancouver Aquarium wants your help to name a baby killer whale

The public helped name Springer’s first calf, Spirit, and is being asked to help with the second

Guards protest firing of fellow officers charged with assault at B.C. prison

Corrections officers demonstrated in Maple Ridge on Friday afternoon

Skier dies at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Cause of death for young man has not been released

Most Read