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N.S. auditor general releases environment-related audit

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Wed, Nov 1: The Nova Scotia government is not fully monitoring terms and conditions set out for projects after they are given environmental approval, according to a new report by the province’s auditor general. Steve Silva has more – Nov 1, 2017

The Nova Scotia government is not monitoring terms and conditions set out for projects after they are given environmental approval, according to a new report by the province’s auditor general.

Nova Scotia auditor general Michael Pickup found from 2013 to 2016, almost all projects presented for environmental assessment were approved. Of the 22 projects Pickup examined for his report, the approvals met legislative requirements and included 675 terms and conditions for project owners.

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The auditor general found that for almost half of the 53 terms and conditions he tested, the department did not monitor whether those conditions were met. Something the report says increases the risk that the environment is not “protected as planned”.

Pickup also found some of the terms and conditions attached to the approvals lacked important details – like deadlines for completion and reporting requirements.

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“The department is failing in this aspect of its environmental oversight because, in too many cases, terms and conditions on project approvals are not monitored or evaluated to see if they are working,” Pickup said in a news release.

“Nova Scotians value a healthy environment and expect monitoring to occur to see it protected.”

When it comes to climate change management, the auditor general found Nova Scoita’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2015 were 18 per cent below 1990 levels, exceeding the minimum reduction target set for 2020 of 10 per cent.

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The report found most of the actions in the government’s 2009 action plan were completed by 2015. However, the plans have not been updated.

“Government’s initial plan is essentially complete but it doesn’t have an updated plan for mitigating and adapting to climate change,” said Pickup.

“Climate change is expected to continue to affect Nova Scotia and government should be assessing the risks and making plans to deal with them.”

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The auditor general has done three environmental audits in the last decade. In his report, Pickup said when the office last followed up, 20 of the 43 recommendations were not complete, including 11 recommendations from the 2010 contaminated sites audit.

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“Nova Scotians should look to their representatives, including the public accounts committee, to ask government whether they are completing their promised actions to address known environmental risks,” he said.

When it comes to accounting for contaminated sites, the report said the $130 million liability for the Boat Harbour cleanup is over 60 per cent of the $212 million liability for contaminated site future cleanup costs in the government’s 2017 financial statements.

Pickup said the amount has grown by more than 10 times the original $12 million estimate made in 2013 and that costs to remediate contaminated sites can be significant and may take years to finalize.

The full report from the auditor general can be found by clicking here.

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