POLITICS

New code to change the way Saskatchewan approaches environment

11/03/2014 12:24 EST | Updated 01/03/2015 05:59 EST
REGINA - Saskatchewan Environment Minister Scott Moe has announced a new code that aims to overhaul how the province protects the environment.

It covers issues including air quality, water management and natural resources protection.

Moe said Monday that the code, which uses a results-based approach to environmental regulation, focuses on outcomes as opposed to industry processes.

"It really is about responsible regulations," he said. "They take into account the risk of a project, as well as they clarify what the end results of that project should be in regards to environmental protection."

In the forestry industry, for example, the code will allow companies to monitor reforestation sites with satellite imagery or drone technology as opposed to using on-the-ground personnel. This will allow industry stakeholders the flexibility to meet environmental targets using whatever means work best for them, Moe said.

The Opposition is criticizing the code for it's lack of attention to climate change — chapters on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change were part of a draft document in 2012, but were later removed.

Moe said greenhouse gas emissions were left out of the code because the province is working with the federal government on sector-by-sector greenhouse gas emission targets.

NDP environment critic Cathy Sproule called the first edition of the environmental code "very disappointing."

"Not only is it late, it's incomplete," she said, adding that she wants to see the provincial government target greenhouse gas emitters and establish baseline emission levels.

"It's completely unacceptable."

The Saskatchewan Environmental Society is also calling for the government to address greenhouse gas emissions in the code.

"The Environmental Code sections that relate to greenhouse gas emissions are still unwritten," the organization said in a statement, adding that "a clear plan for management and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions" is needed.

Sproule said that the code will help cut "red tape" around environmental assessments to make the process more efficient. "The notion that we need to modernize our environmental assessments is very important," she said.

The code's first edition includes new benchmarks for forestry management, which are to take effect Jan. 5. Other standards are to became valid June 1.