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Minister’s statement regarding auditor general’s report on hazardous spills

Press Release

Feb. 27, 2024

VICTORIA – George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, has released the following statement in response to the Office of the Auditor General of B.C.’s audit, Ministry’s management of hazardous spills:

“We appreciate the work of the auditor general for their review of the actions government takes to prepare, respond to and recover from hazardous spills, and to protect the natural environment that is so important to British Columbians.

“While the report demonstrates that the Government of B.C. has strong environmental protection procedures in place and that the Province has provided effective oversight when hazardous spills happen, we fully recognize there are improvements that can be made in our systems and our frameworks to ensure greater effectiveness.

“We take the recommendations seriously and have accepted each of them. They align with what we’ve learned through a proactive review of our emergency-response plans we began last year, as we work to better understand where gaps are and how they can be filled.

“The auditor general’s recommendations reinforce the work we are doing to strengthen and improve our processes, and our engagement with the Office of Auditor General is informing our work to develop a new environmental-emergency management action plan. We will release this plan later this year.

“We are already taking concrete actions to improve our processes. We have done important work with our federal partners and Indigenous Nations in the Northern Shelf Bioregion to develop collaborative response and recovery plans, in addition to our work with Alertable to ensure First Nations are informed quickly when an incident is reported.

“My ministry has also updated our Indigenous Peoples Reconciliation Strategy as we work to strengthen relationships with Indigenous Peoples based on mutual recognition and respect.

“We have provided staff with resources and training materials to support cultural safety; developed partnerships with First Nations through integrated planning, response and recovery; and began to look at how our guiding legislation and regulations can be amended to better align with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

“And as part of our work to develop a Public Interest Bonding Strategy, we have already made the initial legislative changes that will ensure high-risk industrial projects have the financial resources in place to pay the full costs of environmental cleanup if their projects are abandoned.

“Our upcoming action plan will ensure that hazardous spills are prevented, contained and remediated effectively, and that communities have a full and prompt understanding of any impacts to the health of their environment.

“The safety of British Columbians and the preservation of public health and our environment are paramount. We take the auditor general’s findings very seriously. We thank them for their work and we are fully committed to continue to implement the recommendations as soon as possible.”

Contact:

Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
Media Relations
Envmedia@gov.bc.ca
250 953-3834

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