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B.C. minister discusses environmental issues in Nelson

B.C. environment minister George Heyman has announced he will not run in the next election

B.C.'s environment minister George Heyman, visiting Nelson over the weekend, defended his government's promotion of LNG projects and discussed plans for biodiversity protection and First Nations involvement.

Heyman visited a site in Salmo where members of the Youth Climate Corps are working on a wildfire mitigation project, and also attended a social event with supporters in Lakeside Park on Sunday. 

The next day he met with members of the public and took questions. Many of his responses, and Nelson-Creston MLA Brittny Anderson's, included an admission that government processes take longer than the public expects.


Heyman was asked how adding a number of LNG plants to the B.C. landscape will be consistent with the province's emissions targets.

Oil and gas account for about 20 per cent of B.C.s overall emissions and Heyman said that the provincial government has a target of a minimum one-third reduction in that sector by 2030.

Heyman said this target can be met.

"It's pretty hard to have a an oil and gas facility of any kind that has no emissions whatsoever," he said, adding that emissions can be reduce through methane capture, electrification, carbon offsets and carbon capture and storage. 

He said the development of new LNG facilities does not preclude the province investing in and developing renewable energy.

"We can't have an environmental or emission reduction plan on one hand and an economic plan on the other hand. We have to integrate, and it is not going to be like flicking a light switch. It's more going to be like a transitioning to cleaner forms of energy and a more diversified economy over time."

Argenta-Johnsons Landing and Duncan Lake forest protection

Heyman was asked if and when the province will take action to protect the Argenta-Johnsons Landing Face, a forested area that a local group wants to be included in the adjacent Purcell Wilderness Conservance. The group Mount Willet Wilderness Forever has been lobbying the province for this change for a decade.

Heyman said he was not familiar with the issue because it comes under the purview of the Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship, and referred the question to Anderson.

"It's about looking at the different tools that we have in terms of planning around that site. So one of those pieces is the forest landscape plans," Anderson said.

That is a new process the province has promised but which is only in its very early planning stages. Anderson said the first step is engagement with First Nations, which could take a year or two.

Heyman and Anderson were asked if they would support protected area status for the grove of ancient cedars in the vicinity of the Duncan Dam, a status that local advocates have been promoting for several years. 

Again Heyman deferred to Anderson, who said, "It is such a profound area and I would love to see it protected."


Heyman was asked when the provincial government and municipalities will begin collecting and recycling waste material from the sector known as ICI (industrial, commercial and institutional). The current program or residential recycling, under the provincial agency Recycle BC and carried out by municipalities, requires the producers of the material pay for the cost of recycling it. But this does not apply to ICI sector.

"We're constantly reviewing the program," Heyman said. "We have recently done a review (and are) on the cusp of releasing the next schedule of phasing in some aspects of ICI over the next two or three years."

Heyman said the reason for the slow pace is that "we don't want to turn into those jurisdictions that collect things and send them to Third World countries rather than actually manage them. So we are working to establish the facilities that can receive them and truly process and recycle them."

Biodiversity framework, endangered species, and '30 by 30'

Last year the government released a draft version of its biodiversity framework, a new document that would set out ways of protecting the health of ecosystems. Heyman was asked why the final version is taking a long time.

Anderson replied that when the draft version was published, "there was an overwhelming amount of feedback ... and a disproportionate amount came from this area. We got a lot. That just means now it's taking longer."

Heyman said consultation is underway with communities and First Nations, but in the meantime the province has reached an agreement with the federal government to fund conservation measures. It has instituted the goal of conserving 30 per cent of provincial land by 2030, the so-called 30 by 30 agreement. 

Asked how the 30 by 30 agreement was proceeding, Heyman said the conventional approach would be to create provincial or national parks, but this is now outdated because discussion will now be guided by discussions with First Nations," which will involve sustainable economic activity in some areas and complete conservation in others."

Reminded that the province has promised to bring in endangered species legislation, Heyman acknowledged that this has not happened partly because there is an intention to develop this in partnership with First Nations, and that the government has been working with First Nations on other priorities first.

Asked if the government is considering following a United Nations suggestion that fossil fuel advertising be banned, Heyman said, "Not at this moment."

Bill Metcalfe

About the Author: Bill Metcalfe

I have lived in Nelson since 1994 and worked as a reporter at the Nelson Star since 2015.
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