Public Engagement in Environmental Assessments: Recent Conference Paper by EIUI Team Member

At the 42nd AMOP technical seminar on environmental contamination and response, hosted by Environment and Climate Change Canada in Halifax, on 4-6 June 2019, Ian Stewart presented a paper in the session on “Social Aspects Oil Spill Response Planning.” The first AMOP technical seminar, held in Edmonton in 1978, launched the former Arctic and Marine Oilspill program. Today, the AMOP technical seminar is the largest conference in Canada on environmental contamination and response, and is mostly devoted to the issue of hydrocarbon contaminant releases in marine and freshwater environments, and their environmental fates and effects, as well as human responses to them. This year, the seminar included Canadian and international speakers from academia, industry, as well as the Canadian and American governments (from Canada – Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Natural Resources Canada, Transport Canada, and Environment and Climate Change Canada; from the United States – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the United States Coast Guard). Over 100 papers and 25 posters were presented covering subjects as diverse as novel discoveries in hydrocarbon chemistry to innovations in adaptive management in oil spill response.

Ian organized the panel on “Social Aspects of Oil Spill Response Planning,” which included Elise DeCola (Nuka Research & Planning Group, LLC, Plymouth, MA), and Chris Milley (NEXUS Coastal Resource Management, and the Marine Affairs Program, Dalhousie University). Over 100 seminar participants attended this session, the only one with an explicit social focus, which attests to the recent interest this field has in grappling with societal dimensions. Daniel Reid, Regional Manager (British Columbia) for Preparedness and Response Initiatives, Transport Canada, under Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan, chaired the panel. Elise DeCola spoke about “Community Engagement vs Outreach: Designing and Implementing Effective Collaborative Planning for Marine Oil Spills”; Chris Milley talked about “Enhancing Oil Spill Response Management through Collaborative Arrangements with Indigenous Nations”; and Ian’s paper was titled, “Public Engagement in Oil Spill Preparedness and Response (OSPR): Challenges and Possibilities.” His paper surveyed recent legislative changes on the horizon in Canada (i.e., Bill C-69) concerning environmental impact assessment, and drew theoretical and practical conclusions for the field of public engagement as it pertains to environmental management and planning. The paper explicitly drew on EIUI’s collective expertise on the “use and influence” of environmental information, which in this case relates to the public engagement aspects of impact assessment processes related to environmental hazards management.

Image Credit: Peter G. Wells