B.C. rescinds environmental assessment exemption
Government flip flops, admits it failed to consult First Natons
In a stunning about-face, Environment Minister Mary Polak has rescinded the environmental assessment exemption for prospective sweet natural gas processing plants and all-season ski resorts only a day after it was announced.
The word from my elders is you treat people kind. You treat them with respect even when they're stabbing you in the back- Fort Nelson First Nations' Chief Sharleen Gale
In a written statement, Polak acknowledges First Nations were not adequately consulted about the proposed change prior to her Tuesday announcement.
The order would have exempted prospective year-round ski resorts and new sweet natural gas plants in B.C. from the Environmental Assessment process.
Polak said the decision was made in order to eliminate the duplication created by a similar environmental assessment process within the Ministry of Forests and Lands.
First Nations reacted angrily to Tuesday's announcement.
Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Philip said the government had "effectively declared war on all BC First Nations and jeopardized all LNG discussions throughout the entire Province of BC."
He branded the decision, "a stunningly stupid move."
In Fort Nelson, First Nations drummed the government and industry out of a Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) conference following an impassioned speech from Fort Nelson Chief Sharleen Gale.
"The word from my elders is it doesn't matter how they treat you," she told the conference from the podium.
"You treat people kind. You treat them with respect even when they're stabbing you in the back. So I respectively ask government to please remove yourself from the room."
Shortly after government officials left, the industry was also asked to leave.
In her statement, Polak apologizes for the oversight.
"I would like to acknowledge First Nations' concerns about amendments to the Reviewable Projects Regulation under the Environmental Assessment Act. Our government apologizes for failing to discuss the amendment with First Nations prior to its approval."
Polak says the government will not proceed with the regulatory change until First Nations have been consulted. She says the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has also been made aware of the decision.
With files from the CBC's Marissa Harvey