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New tool empowers citizens during environmental assessments

April 30, 2024 at 1:17 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) has launched a new tool to engage the public during environmental assessments, empowering people to have a more meaningful impact on the decision-making process for major projects proposed throughout the province.

EPIC.engage is a new engagement platform designed to improve the overall experience for people providing feedback during the public comment periods of an environmental assessment.

Industrial and infrastructure projects like mines, pipelines, bridges and tunnels can significantly impact nearby communities. The website uses maps, diagrams and plain-language summaries of technical project information, accompanied by questions to provide experts and decision-makers with the information they need.

“Public engagement is a critical part of our environmental assessment process and of transparency. It provides valuable information about proposed major projects in B.C. and helps inform ministers on whether to issue an environmental assessment certificate,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “EPIC.engage makes it easier for the public to provide information that is both helpful and might otherwise be missed during the technical process of an environmental assessment.”

Providing feedback is anonymous. The platform protects the identity of commentors while verifying that it is an individual providing feedback, and not “bots” or people seeking to undermine a project or the assessment process. It also features an enhanced post-submission experience for users where feedback is reflected and responses from others is shared. Opportunities to amend and resubmit feedback, if the original submission does not meet the required submission standards, ensures more people will have their voices heard.

“Partnering with Environmental Assessment Office to improve the user experience of the public when engaging on projects that impact them and their communities will help ensure that any concerns or issues are addressed early in the process of assessing major projects,” said Josie Osborne, Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation.

Work on the platform began in April 2022, funded through the B.C. government’s Strategic Investment Fund, in partnership with Telus. 

Partnering with the Ministry of Citizen’s Services, EPIC.engage was designed with accessibility top of mind, to remove barriers to participation for those whose voices may be under-represented in decision-making. It was also built using open-source code so it could be adopted and scaled to the unique needs of business areas across government and other public organizations.

“My ministry’s work on the EPIC.engage app demonstrates innovation and a willingness to work across government to deliver the digital tools that help streamline environmental assessments,” said George Chow, Minister of Citizens’ Services. “Designing apps with open-source code means more people can access solutions and do business with government.”

EPIC.engage has officially launched following a number of improvements resulting from public and staff feedback.

Learn More:

Check out EPIC.engage and all open public engagement opportunities through the Environmental Assessment Office at: https://engage.eao.gov.bc.ca/

The Environmental Assessment Office is a neutral regulatory agency of the Government of British Columbia, Canada, responsible for assessing the effects of major projects, which includes sustainability and Indigenous reconciliation: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/natural-resource-stewardship/environmental-assessments

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