SHAWNIGAN LAKE B.C. – Minister of Environment Mary Polak has issued letters on Oct. 11 and Nov. 4, 2016 to Cobble Hill Holdings identifying ongoing concerns with the company’s contaminated landfill.
“I am encouraged to see Minister Polak issue these letters to the company, however yet another warning does not address the ongoing problems we have seen at this site”, said Sonia Furstenau, B.C. Green Party deputy leader, environment critic and candidate for Cowichan Valley. “This company has demonstrated its inability to meet the conditions of the permit, and it’s time for the Minister to use her full authority under section 18 of the Environmental Management Act to cancel this permit.”
Minister Polak’s letters identify the quality of discharge water, long delays on required water management system reviews, the closure plan and security deposit as serious concerns. Minister Polak’s Oct. 11 letter states, “I am am considering suspending or cancelling Permit PR-105809… for failure to comply with the terms of the permit.” Her second letter gives the owners until Dec. 20, 2016 to properly respond to the “non-compliant requirements” identified in her first letter.
Furstenau sees this situation as an example of the failure of the B.C. Liberal government's experiment in deregulation, known as “professional reliance”. “In Shawnigan, we see firsthand the results of the failure of professional reliance,” explains Furstenau. “Citizens of Shawnigan Lake have been doing the work of monitoring this site, and submitting information to the Ministry of Environment. We no longer have trust in the regulatory agencies that should be protecting our environment, and we do not have faith in the qualified professionals hired by this company. That is why the B.C. Green Party went so far as to call for the resignation of the Minister of Environment last month.”
According to Andrew Weaver, B.C. Green Party leader and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, “The impacts of this shift toward deregulation have been felt across the province. In the Auditor General's Audit of Compliance and Enforcement in the Mining Sector, ‘over reliance on qualified professionals’ was identified as a contributing factor that led to the tailings pond failure at Mount Polley.”
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Letter to Cobble Hill Holdings, Minister of Environment Mary Polak, Oct. 11, 2016
Letter to Cobble Hill Holdings, Minister of Environment Mary Polak, Nov. 4, 2016
Professional Reliance and Environmental Regulation in British Columbia, Environmental Law Centre, University of Victoria, Feb. 2015
Audit of Compliance and Enforcement of the Mining Sector, Auditor General of British Columbia, May 2016
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