Environment minister contradicts AG report

Daniel
Daniel MacEachern
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Terry French says inspectors do use risk-based approach to determine industrial inspection priority

Environment Minister Terry French told reporters Tuesday his government doesn’t agree with a report by acting auditor general Wayne Loveys that his department’s inspection policies are inconsistent . — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Newfoundland’s environment minister says his department’s inspection policies are not increasing the risk of environmental violations by industrial companies.

Last week’s report by acting auditor general Wayne Loveys said the Department of Environment and Conservation’s industrial compliance section isn’t consistently inspecting or monitoring industrial facilities. Minister Terry French said while he supports the auditing process, he disagrees the section is leaving the door open for violations.

Reviewing inspection activity between April 1, 2010, and March 31, 2011, Loveys found six of 25 facilities that required industrial inspections did not have inspections completed. Inspection frequency was also not determined using a risk-based approach, and no inspection plan was developed based on priority.

But French directly contradicted the report, saying inspectors do choose inspections based on risk factors.

“There’s no policy or legislation that says we have to do an inspection in a certain place every so many months, or every year, or anything of the sort,” he told the Telegram. “Now, we try to get there, obviously, as often as we can, and if you’re an industry that the engineer felt there was trouble there, we had a lot of complaints there, there had been violations in the past, obviously we’re going to concentrate a lot more on that one than on some others. So we do a risk-based approach to these assessments.”

French said of the six facilities that hadn’t received inspections during the reviewed period, four had inspections done within three months, with another one done a month after that.

“It may not have been in a 12-month period, but obviously we stay in touch as much as we can with all our industrial partners out there and work with them,” he said. “I don’t want to single anybody out here, but obviously if you’re a refinery, you’ll see an engineer more often than if you were doing something of a lesser risk. So that’s just common practice.”

French said there aren’t written guidelines to determine risk. It’s left to the experience of the inspectors. “We’re talking about some very qualified and capable individuals here, and some of these engineers are even specialists in a certain area. … It’s not like in 12 months you get a new certificate signed and put on the wall. It doesn’t work quite like that. So we like to think that we’re doing what we can to look after the industry, and we follow up with complaints on a regular basis, and those that are in compliance have no problems, and those that are not, well, they’re reminded of it.”

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Department of Environment and Conservation

Geographic location: Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Harvey
    February 02, 2012 - 08:37

    Mr. French, I would much rather believe the AG than you.

  • Maggy Carter
    February 01, 2012 - 08:46

    French says the AG is wrong - the Province does use a risk based approach to industrial inspections. But note the last paragraph of the story "French said there aren’t written guidelines to determine risk. It’s left to the experience of the inspectors." Sorry Mr. French but a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach to environmental risk management doesn't cut the mustard. Your answer is the same kind as might have been expected from BP prior to the Macondo disaster. The whole point of guidelines, standards, protocols is that they must be written if they are to provide the public with the protections expected from their governments.

  • XXX
    February 01, 2012 - 07:14

    a possible cause of the 'problems' here, that the AG identifies, is that the AG will review a set of policies and guidelines, and then review the actions taken...if they do not match the stated goals of the guiding policies, etc, then its flagged as a potential problem, irregardless if there really is a danger or risk or if staff actually have everything under control...if the policies are not followed to the letter, its flagged. that may be a good thing, or it may not, depending on the situation.

  • shaneo
    February 01, 2012 - 07:12

    march 31st to april 1st is a long time to investigate... i can barely find enough hours in 1 day to do what i need and the same could be said for the telegrams editor...