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Monday, January 12, 2009

Provincial government fails to meet environmental goals

Posted By on Mon, Jan 12, 2009 at 4:11 PM

The Nova Scotian government took an ambitious step when in April of 2007 the legislature unanimously adopted the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act. The act rightly connected environmental quality with economic success, and to that end outlined a series of 21 environmental goals that are to be achieved by specific deadlines over the next 20 years. Understand---these goals are law, direct orders to the bureaucrats and regulators. For this reason, Nova Scotia has been roundly praised as a leader in environmental quality, and as a government that has set the standard for others to follow.On the other hand, the Act is worse than meaningless if the goals aren't met---ignoring or refusing to meet the goals is an exercise in cynicism of the first order. And sure enough, the province has failed to meet the first two deadlines spelled out by the Act:

(j) municipal public drinking-water supplies will meet the Province's treatment standards by the year 2008;(r)all new residential dwelling units constructed in the Province that are within the scope of Part 9 of the National Building Code of Canada will be required to display an EnerGuide rating by the year 2008;
On the drinking water issue, I spoke with Jeff Garnhum and Judy MacDonald, both of the provincial Department of Environment, who discussed the pitfalls and difficulties of getting each of the 85 municipal water systems to meet the standards. Moreover, many of the standards are technical in nature and don't directly relate to water quality per se. (Listen to my conversation with Garnhum and MacDonald here.) I appreciate this---there are many issues involved, limited funding, etc. Still, only 60 percent of suppliers have met the standards (see which agencies did and did not meet the standards here); projections are that about 75 percent of the agencies will meet the standards this year, and 90 percent in 2010. So, while the bureaucracy has real challenges and is making progress, the bottom line is that legal goal spelled out in EGSPA has not been met. On the second goal, involving the EnerGuide rating display on new houses, department spokesperson Bruce Nunn admits that the goal has not been met, and directed me to someone in the Department of Labour with whom to discuss the matter. I dutifully phoned last week, but haven't heard back.

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