Coal mine in AlbertaRolling back environmental regulations during the pandemic poses long-term risks, says post-doctoral research fellow Brynn Devine.

Rolling back environmental regulation short-sighted, say researchers

Although governments have used the public health rules and environmental challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic to justify rolling back environmental regulations, these changes carry large risks, says Brynn Devine.

A post-doctoral research fellow in the UWindsor Department of Integrative Biology, she is one of three authors of an article on the subject published Monday in the Conversation, which shares news and views from the academic and research community.

“Although they may only last a few months, the environmental impact may be much longer,” writes Dr. Devine with her co-authors James E. Paterson of Trent University and Gideon Mordecai of the University of British Columbia. “Short-term environmental damage can have long-term effects.”

They cite the examples of Alberta suspending monitoring requirements for oil companies, federal suspension of at-sea observers of fisheries, and removing requirements for public consultation during environmental assessments.

The piece argues that new technologies may help to close the gap, including online platforms for public consultation and remote-sensing instruments for monitoring pollution and wildlife.

“During the pandemic, environmental regulations have changed rapidly, and Canada has not been immune to pressures to lower environmental standards,” says Devine and her co-authors. “But relaxing these standards places Canada’s communities and biological diversity at greater risk and so should only be done when the immediate public health risk is real.”

Read the entire piece, “Rolling back Canadian environmental regulations during coronavirus is short-sighted,” in the Conversation.

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