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Wednesday, 15 May 2013 15:28

Sask. Environmental Record: Good?

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It's interesting to hear Premier Brad Wall espouse the virtues of Saskatchewan’s environmental record. He is trying to sell the Americans that Saskatchewan’s good environmental record is a reason for them to approve the Keystone pipeline.

Let’s look at Saskatchewan’s environmental record. Have environmental prosecutions dropped?  Have environmental standards been closely followed by industry? What is the compliance to conviction ratio?
If you research this you will find Saskatchewan has no dedicated environmental enforcement staff. In some years there are no “environmental” prosecutions even. Yes, there are officers writing tickets if you don’t have a fishing licence but if you dump chemicals in a river, burn at a landfill, or operate without an environmental license there appears to be little action taken against you. The reason for this is Saskatchewan has few regulations with any standards. There are a lot of guidelines, but they are only targets not official standards. And the few regulations that are there have numerous exemptions. In fact the Saskatchewan government is now proposing to move away from “prescriptive requirements” to a results-based model, which is essentially industry self-regulation.
Self-regulation has been reviewed to death and shown to be ineffective in protecting the environment and the general public.
If self-regulation is such a great model why don’t we see it in policing, taxation or even in provincial politics? Why doesn’t it apply to everyday citizens not just to the corporate world? We all know the answer to that one. No law for the rich and a lot of laws for the rest of us.
In fairness, there are some companies that will follow codes and be proactive, but for many companies they will look at the cost/reward of action vs. inaction and if it’s cheaper to cut corners, they will — especially if their competitors are doing so. In fact most environmentally-conscious companies would argue they would follow environmental laws more readily if the standards were clear, precise, and enforced on all industries equally. Or at least that is what they say in public, but it looks like too many of them lobby behind the scenes to reduce environmental regulation/responsibility.
If the Americans are planning on making their decision on the pipeline proceeding through their country based on Saskatchewan’s environmental record then Premier Wall had better hope they do not actually take the time to research what that record is.
Kyle Korneychuk  B.Sc., Pelly, Sask.

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