In the wake of BC’s Auditor General’s damning report of BC Environmental Assessment Office’s (EAO) handling of large projects, a conservation group is going back to court to stop a limestone quarry from being built above an environmentally sensitive bay on Texada Island.
On May 24, 2011, Friends of Davie Bay (FODB), supported by West Coast Environmental Law, filed an appeal with the BC Court of Appeal, of Justice Peter Voith’s May 4, 2011 decision. Justice Voith declined to interfere with the decision of the EAO to allow the proposed Texada South Quarry to go ahead without an environmental assessment.
Mining giant Lehigh Hanson Materials Ltd. plans to open a 74.6-hectare limestone quarry with mining reserves greater than 100 million metric tonnes. A loading ramp is to be built over Davie Bay with a loading capacity of 2,500 tons per hour. However, Lehigh states in its mining application that it estimates production of just 240,000 tons per year, just shy of the 250,000-ton production that would trigger an automatic environmental assessment. At that rate, the quarry could run for more than 400 years. FODB believes the acreage, mining reserves and planned infrastructure indicate a much larger quarry.
FODB argued before Justice Voith that a loophole in the Environmental Assessment Act may allow for project proponents to avoid an environmental assessment by applying for a permit under the trigger amount of 250,000 tons but overbuild the infrastructure for the project. At a later date the production capacity could then be increased beyond the trigger amount, but because of the operation of the legislation an environmental assessment could be avoided.
This loophole was recognized by Justice Voith in his decision, but not closed. FODB remains committed to having the legislation interpreted in a manner that ensures projects that may potentially harm the environment are adequately assessed. The group is returning to court to seek an environmental assessment for Lehigh’s new Texada Island quarry.
“Auditor General John Doyle said the EAO is not doing its job,” said Texada resident John Dove. “FODB is concerned that a loophole in the legislation will allow Lehigh Hanson to develop a substantial quarry in the environmentally sensitive area of Davie Bay without an environmental assessment.”
Lehigh Hanson maintains that all permit requirements were met and company spokesperson Jeff Sieg said they were pleased at the BC Supreme Court ruling earlier in the year. While the matter is before the court the company is not willing to comment further.