The federal government’s addition of a former mining executive to a panel reviewing how it assesses the environmental impact of energy infrastructure and extractive resource projects will make it “all the more difficult” to restore confidence in a badly discredited process, DeSmog Canada charges in a critical assessment of new appointee Doug Horswill.
Horswill, appointed to the federal review panel in early August, is a former vice-president of Teck Resources, an historic B.C. mining company. Before that, he served as a provincial deputy minister of energy, mines, and petroleum resources under the British Columbia Liberals—a party to which the mining company has donated $2.3 million since 2005, DeSmog reports.
He was also the founding chair of Resource Works, which it describes as “an industry advocacy group with close ties to the B.C. Liberals that aggressively advocates for the interests of extractive industries.”
“Resource Works,” DeSmog writes, “claims to promote balanced conversations about B.C.’s resource development, but takes a consistently pro-industry position on basically everything: mining, LNG development, new pipelines, climate legislation, carbon taxes, raw log exports, environmental opposition, the Site C dam, oil tankers, and the National Energy Board.”
While the B.C. government recent climate plan met a scathing expert reception, Resource Works praised it as “climate leadership.” It has also hosted an online petition in support of LNG development in the province, claiming it would create 100,000 new jobs. (The industry, in fact, has failed to ignite, as a projected boom in Asian demand fails to materialize.)
“The overarching message of Resource Works is that continued extraction of natural resources is essential to B.C.’s prosperity, and anything that stands in the way of extraction—local opposition, regulations, taxes—is a threat to that prosperity,” DeSmog writes.
Canada’s practices for assessing the environmental impact of resource development were heavily modified by the previous Conservative government to expedite approvals. The other members of the panel assigned to review those changes are former Environment Commissioner Johanne Gélinas, environmental lawyer Rod Northey, and Renée Pelletier, an Aboriginal rights lawyer.
“The panel absolutely should have industry representation,” the blog asserts, “but we’re not convinced the feds chose the right guy. Restoring trust and credibility is a tall order for the federal government—and it will be made all the more difficult with a creator of Resource Works on the panel tasked with doing just that.”