Compliance and Enforcement for Environmental Assessment Projects

Contacting C&E

For questions relating to compliance for reviewable projects or if you have information about a project you suspect is in non-compliance with the Act, a Certificate, or an exemption order, please email eao.compliance@gov.bc.ca.

Overview of EAO Compliance & Enforcement

Once an environmental assessment certificate or an exemption order is issued, Environmental Assessment Office Compliance and Enforcement Officers conduct routine inspections of projects to ensure they meet the legally binding requirements of the certificate or exemption order. This important work ensures operators are held accountable to the requirements designed to mitigate potential adverse effects to the environment, heritage, health, social and economic values and Indigenous interests.

The Environmental Assessment Office has made the enhancement of the Compliance and Enforcement Program a top priority, incorporating best practices from other provinces and countries. The EAO collaborates with other provincial government agencies to coordinate oversight of projects.

Compliance with what?

Upon completion of the environmental assessment process, projects may be granted an Environmental Assessment Certificate, or an exemption. Both Certificates and Exemptions are legally binding and contain conditions that must be followed for the life of the project to mitigate potential adverse effects.

In addition to a project's conditions, Compliance and Enforcement officers use the Environmental Assessment Act and regulations to guide their compliance and enforcement activities.

Who is involved?

Throughout the life of a project, Compliance and Enforcement Officers coordinate with other provincial government agencies to ensure the projects are built and operated in accordance with the Certificate or Exemption Order. In addition, Compliance and Enforcement Officers routinely work with First Nations and Treaty Nations within their traditional territories and treaty lands.

What gets inspected?

Every year, Compliance and Enforcement Officers go through an inspection planning process to determine which projects will be inspected. This process results in an inspection plan and guides routine inspections for the year. In addition to the inspection plan, inspections may be conducted following a complaint, information received from First Nations, other government agencies, the public, or as follow-up to previous inspections.

Once an inspection is complete, EAO posts the inspection record to the EAO Website.

What happens if a project is not in compliance?

If a project is found to be out of compliance with the Certificate, Compliance and Enforcement Officers in the Environmental Assessment Office determine the appropriate enforcement response which could include: warnings, orders to cease or remedy, or a range of other potential sanctions set out in the Environmental Assessment Act.

For example, a Compliance and Enforcement Officer may order a Certificate Holder to cease activity or take action to remedy a non-compliance in a specific way and by a specific date. The Minister may also suspend, cancel, or amend a Certificate. Once an enforcement Order is issued, EAO publically posts the order to EAOs website.

Through inspections, investigations, audits, self-reports and working closely with partners, Compliance and Enforcement officers independently and objectively ensures Certificate Holders are adhering to the legally binding requirements of their Certificates.

Compliance and Enforcement Guidance Documents

To learn more about the Environmental Assessment Office's compliance and enforcement program, please see the documents below:

EAO's Progress Implementing Auditor General's Recommendations

In July 2011, the Office of the Auditor General released an audit that focused on the Environmental Assessment Office's post-certification monitoring, compliance and enforcement efforts. The audit recommended that the Environmental Assessment Office's oversight of certified projects be enhanced to ensure potential significant adverse effects are avoided or mitigated.

You can read the auditor general's audit report at:
An Audit of the Environmental Assessment Office's Oversight of Certified Projects.

On May 26, 2015, the Office of the Auditor General released a progress report that is available at: Follow-Up Report: Environmental Assessment Office (PDF).

The Environmental Assessment Office has made significant progress implementing all six of the Auditor General's recommendations. A key action was the development of a comprehensive compliance and enforcement program in 2011 based on best practices from other agencies and leading jurisdictions.

In addition to the development and implementation of the Compliance & Enforcement Program, the Environmental Assessment Office has undertaken the following initiatives to meet the recommendations of the Auditor General:

Initiatives
Auditor General Recommendation: Environmental Assessment Office Progress: Status of Work:
Ensure commitments are clearly written in a measureable and enforceable manner. Develop draft environmental assessment certificates and exemption orders with input from compliance and enforcement officers.
 
Assess each draft environmental assessment certificate and exemption order to ensure it is clear, measurable and enforceable.
 
Work with permitting agencies, working groups and technical experts to ensure there are no regulatory gaps, and that overlaps exist only when necessary to avoid significant adverse effects.
 
Added a legally-binding Certified Project Description to environmental assessment certificates to specify the physical components of an approved project. Added a legally-binding exempted project description to exemption orders to specify the physical components that can proceed.
 
Developed an expanded policy for drafting certificates, conditions and certified project descriptions: The Environmental Assessment Certificate Policy: Drafting Conventions for Certificates, Certificate Amendments and Exemption Orders (PDF, 1.4MB)
Fully Implemented
Continue to work with the Ministry of Environment to finalize a policy framework that will provide provincial guidance on environmental mitigation. Participated in the development of the Environmental Mitigation Policy for British Columbia led by the Ministry of Environment. Fully Implemented
Clarify the post-certification monitoring responsibilities and compliance mechanisms for each commitment.

Work with other agencies to clarify roles and responsibilities for compliance management of certified projects.
 
Authorization by the Environmental Assessment Office and other agencies to conduct compliance oversight for each other, including:

  • Developed a May 2012 Letter of Agreement with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to identify roles and responsibilities for inspections of certified projects. 
  • Developed an October 2013 Memorandum of Understanding with the Oil and Gas Commission (PDF) that includes environmental assessment, permitting and compliance-related information. 

Participated in interagency compliance committees and initiatives to ensure integration with other enforcement agencies.

Designation of Compliance and Enforcement Officers as Natural Resource Officers under the Natural Resource Compliance Act, allowing them to enforce a suite of natural resource legislation.

Fully Implemented
Develop and implement a comprehensive compliance and enforcement program that includes an integrated information management system to monitor project progress and ensure compliance.

Developed and implemented a Compliance and Enforcement program that undertakes:

  • compliance operations - field and administrative inspections, complaint reviews, investigations, compliance self-report reviews, enforcement, etc. to promote compliance and enforce legally-binding certificates and exemption orders; 
  • information sharing, outreach and agreements with partner agencies and Indigenous groups; 
  • contributions to the development of measurable and enforceable certificates and exemption orders; and
  • effectiveness management to ensure continuous improvement of environmental assessments and compliance management. 

Developed compliance and enforcement policy and procedures that is available here (PDF).

Developed an interim information system to support compliance oversight while developing a system in partnership with other agencies that will enhance information-sharing with other compliance agencies.

Fully or Substantially Implemented
Conduct post-certificate evaluations to determine whether environmental assessments are avoiding or mitigating the potentially significant adverse effects of certified projects.

Conduct inspections, including inspections with partner agencies, to evaluate whether mitigation measures are being implemented as required.

Use knowledge gained about the effectiveness of mitigation measures through field and administrative (i.e. desk-based) inspections to inform current and future environmental assessments.

Standardized conditions developed and implemented for Certificates, Certificate Amendments and Exemption Orders.

Develop a library of conditions for common mitigation measures.

Fully or Substantially Implemented
Provide appropriate accountability information for projects certified through the environmental assessment process

Posted information relating to environmental assessments and post-certificate activities on the website, including compliance self-reports.

Expanded the website to include detailed compliance information for each project, including compliance self-reports, inspection reports, and enforcement actions. 

Created a compliance and enforcement email address to enable the public, Indigenous Groups and industry to submit complaints and inquire about certified projects.

Added contact information on the website to enable the public, Indigenous Groups and industry to easily seek out information relating to specific sectors.

Working with the Aboriginal Liaison Program to bring designated Aboriginal Liaisons on inspections of certified projects

Fully or Substantially Implemented

The Environmental Assessment Office continues to address the recommendations from the audit, including:

  • effectiveness and analysis tracking (taking lessons learned from compliance oversight and feedback from certificate holders and environmental monitors for consideration in future environmental assessments); 
  • posting compliance documents on the Environmental Assessment Office's website (e.g.. management plans and reports required by conditions in environmental assessment certificates); 
  • development of information-sharing protocols, training and partnerships with Indigenous Groups related to compliance oversight through the Aboriginal Liaison Program; 
  • exploring new and updated partnerships with other compliance agencies; and 
  • developing an integrated compliance tracking system and procedures. 

Letter from the EAO to the Office of the Auditor General of British Columbia regarding the posting of inspection reports on the EAO's website (PDF) (2017).