Nova Scotia does not monitor many industrial projects to see if they comply with their environmental terms, the province's auditor general says.
In a report released Wednesday, Michael Pickup said the Environment Department approved 53 of 54 project applications between 2013 and 2016.
He said his office examined 22 of those projects and found almost half of the 53 different terms and conditions he examined weren't met. He said that "increases the risk that the environment is not protected as planned."
The Environment Department is "failing" in this aspect of its oversight, he said.
"For example, Nova Scotia Environment did not have evidence to confirm requirements such as groundwater well and wildlife surveys were completed by the project owner or work was completed outside of animal breeding seasons," the report states.
"The lack of monitoring of the terms and conditions of approved projects ... weakens the work done by Nova Scotia Environment in deciding to approve a project."
The report also notes that the conditions for some projects lacked important details such as deadlines for completion and reporting requirements.
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It said the lack of clarity limited the department's ability to hold project owners accountable
"This increases risk to the environment," says the report.
"Inspectors told us they had concerns related to the enforceability of some terms and conditions. Inspectors believed their lack of involvement in the development of the terms and conditions contributed to this issue."
Pickup also found that neither the department nor project owners completed the required assessments for any of the projects that were examined. That left the department without the necessary information to ensure terms and conditions "were satisfied and environmental risks were properly managed."
The report pinpointed a lack of reporting to the department's electronic tracking system. An internal review in 2015 found that only 75 of the 276 environmental assessment approvals issued between 1989 and 2015 had been recorded in the system.
"Until the department identified this issue there was nearly no monitoring of the terms and conditions attached to approved projects," says the report.
In other areas covered in his report, Pickup says the province's last climate change risk plan was completed in 2005 and an update is needed because the risks may have changed.
As well, the report says the $130 million liability for the Boat Harbour contamination cleanup in Pictou County has grown by more than 10 times the original estimate of $12 million made in 2013.
Pickup notes costs to remediate contaminated sites may take years to finalize, leading to fiscal planning that can be "challenging."
The report also notes that the auditor general's office had conducted three environmental audits over the last 10 years and that nearly half of the recommendations — 20 of 43 — had not been completed despite being accepted by the provincial government.