Environmental Assessment / Formal Process
According to the Environmental Assessment Branch in Halifax, this is what the Environmental Assessment is supposed to be:
- Environmental Assessment (EA) is a planning and decision making tool
used to provide sustainable development by protecting and conserving the environment.
- It is an information gathering process used to identify and assess the potential environmental effects of undertakings prior to their development.
- It is also a process that provides the public with an opportunity to contribute to the decision making process.
The Environmental Assessment follows a regulated process consisting of a Pre-registration Phase and a Registration Process.
- The Pre-Registration phase is also called information gathering process. This phase takes one year and more. The proponent collects information and shares it with the Environmental Assessment Branch as well as with the local Department of Environment for review by sending Draft Reports before receiving their final "ok" to register the undertaking with a Final Report. At this point of "pre-approval" the public has not been involved.
- The Final Report must be registered at the Environmental Assessment Branch in order to start the formal EA Registration Process:
The EA Registration process must be completed over a 50 day period after registration. A 30 day period for Public Comments starts with the registration of the Final Report. A decision by the Minister of the Environment marks the end of the 50 day period.
The formal EA Registration process for Alva's quarry extension project in Georgeville with dates and documents can be found below:
Link to EA Branch website with all above documents: http://www.gov.ns.ca/nse/ea/northumberland.rock.quarry.extension.asp
Incorrect information has been provided by Alva Construction with their registration documents (application). This means wrong input was given before the decision was made by the Minister. Involved government authorities failed to do their job and correct this information. This resulted in an ill-informed (instead of well-informed) and therefore unbalanced / unfair decision by the Minister. Here is what went wrong:
- Wrong input re production levels and truck traffic: False information was provided by the proponent with the EA Registration documents (application) in regards to production levels and truck traffic. Instead of correcting this "mistake", government authorities in charge of this process officially disbursed this false information to other departments, authorities and the General Public. They continued to do so after they were given notification of their mistake and they haven't admitted to any wrongdoing to date.
- Wrong input re neighboring land use: False information was provided by the proponent with the EA Registration documents (application) in regards to the neighboring land use. While Alva describes other quarries in the near vicinity of their project site - there are none. The application also describes low residential development in the area while it misses to mention an adjacent residential development with 13 lots and more than 40 additional residential properties in waterfront and water view subdivisions within less than 1 km radius.
- Wrong input re Public Involvement: False information was provided by the proponent with the EA Registration documents (application) in regards to involvement of stakeholders. Alva states that stakeholders had been informed about the extension project many months prior to their application. This was simply not the case - nor was the general public informed at any time prior to that point.
- Flawed process. While the law requires that proponents have to inform the public during the pre-registration phase about a proposed quarry extension project exceeding an area of 4 ha, the Environment Assessment Branch allows proponents to exclude the public from this most important information gathering process.
The law requires an "early involvement" of the public during the pre-registration phase. The Environmental Assessment process as practiced in Nova Scotia today allows the proponent to exclude the public from this most important information gathering process.
The practice has changed after a large quarry extension project was rejected in 2007 in Digby Neck due to public concerns. Stantec Inc. who prepares most EA registrations as environmental consulting company for proponents' writes a standardized phrase in almost all EA Registrations after 2007 saying that information bulletins have been sent to stakeholders within a certain radius and as a result of that no comments have been received.
It is unimaginable that information bulletins had really been sent out after 2007 when no comments of stakeholders had been received since then. It is "hard to swallow" that government authorities allowed this to happen since 2007 without consequences for proponents. Worse: When government officials were notified by stakeholders that - contrary to what was said in the registration documents - information bulletins had not been sent by the proponent, they replied that they wouldn't know whom to believe.
The EA Branch and people in charge of this process did not stay neutral. They didn't take concerns of the public seriously - instead they've acted as advocates of the proponent all the way through this process.
Conflict free decision opportunity was on the table, but missed:
Representatives of Alva Construction communicated consistently through the media such as newspapers (Chronicle Herald, The Casket), radio (the Hawk, and CJFX Antigonish) and TV (CBC news) as well as to the general public (Northumberland Fire Hall meeting) and government representatives (Councilor Mary MacLellan,
Director of DOE Paul Keats, Manager of the Environmental Branch in Halifax,
Peter Geddes) that they will keep production levels and truck traffic where they
have been in the past.
Residents of the affected area have expressed numerous times and in many submissions that they could live with the status quo in regards to production levels and truck traffic. This was confirmed by a
Community Health Impact Assessment,
which was provided to the Minister before the approval was issued.
A conflict free decision could have been easily achieved at this point by simply restricting production levels and truck traffic to the status quo. The Minister missed this opportunity and the opportunity to impose an alternate dispute mechanism which the law allows. Instead he provided Alva or whoever may own the quarry in the future, with a carte blanche allowing an increase in production levels and truck traffic far beyond 1,000%.
Wrong input (incorrect information) and a flawed process can only result in wrong output (ill-informed decision).
The Minister approved Alva's quarry extension project based on wrong information and therefore failed to put adequate restrictions - such as limitation on size and production levels - in place.
Had the public been informed during the information gathering process (pre-registration phase) wrong information could have been corrected before providing the proponent with green lights to register for EA (= "pre-approval") resulting in a well informed and potentially conflict free decision.
Our Ask (solution):
We are asking the Minister to require ALVA Construction, to maintain their production level per the status quo , as practised today and over the past ten years and limit the EA approval to land excluded by the 800 meter blasting setback.