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

One hurt in Gertrude Street Bridge accident

Driver suffers medical emergency in Port Alberni crash

Motorcyclist caught driving 117 km/h on Beaver Creek Road

Port Alberni man was driving in a posted 50 km/h zone

Port Alberni soapbox derby has new track

Lower Argyle Street will be open to racers under six

UPDATED: Somass River closed to sockeye fishery

Early closure aimed at conserving Great Central Lake stock

Heat warning issued for Vancouver Island

Temperatures expected to cool down later this week

VIDEO: Visual recap of Vancouver Island MusicFest

Walk Off The Earth, Passenger, Arlo Guthrie among highlights

Trudeau’s youth council divided over Trans Mountain pipeline purchase

A letter signed by 16 past and present members was made public today, asking the federal government to reverse course

Hulk Hogan reinstated into wrestling Hall of Fame

Hogan had used racial slurs caught on video when talking about his daughter sleeping with a black man

Island wide crime spree leads to multiple charges against Cowichan Valley resident

Social Media and citizens of the North Island played a big role in solving the case.

‘Lava bomb’ through roof of tour boat injures 22 in Hawaii

“An explosion occurred near the shoreline hurling hot lava rocks towards the boat and injuring several passengers”

B.C. teen meets Nicolas Cage

Filming mob movie in downtown Vernon, B.C.

Critics claim Trump “defended a tyrant”

Trump questions US intel, not Putin, on Russia 2016 meddling

B.C. MLAs choose new children’s watchdog

Jennifer Charlesworth has worked in government, social services

Most Read