Imagine you are standing in the quiet shade of an undisturbed forested area in the northern part of the province. Until a few years ago, there wasn’t much interest in this area, but the discovery of a large natural gas reserve lying underneath the forest has the potential to change all that.
An energy corporation is proposing to tap this natural gas field and build an underground pipeline to carry natural gas to southern markets.
You are an environmental assessment analyst, and you and your team are visiting the site as part of an environmental assessment on the proposed project.
Your job is to ensure the project’s potential environmental effects are identified, assessed, and mitigated, and that accurate information is provided to decision-makers to decide whether the project should proceed.
As the lead environmental assessment analyst for this project, you must decide what kind of assessment the project needs and what provincial, federal, and other environmental legislation applies.
Since the pipeline is a large-scale project, federal funds and regulatory approvals are required. Because the area is susceptible to human disturbance, it has been decided that a comprehensive study level of assessment is required.
A comprehensive study is an intensive environmental assessment under federal environmental assessment legislation designed to identify, assess, and mitigate adverse environmental effects and evaluate the significance of the residual effects of a proposed development.
You and your team will spend months gathering data and information from the site and reviewing case studies from similar developments.
You will also spend time consulting with area residents and members of a local Indigenous community to gather their comments on the pipeline, as well as posting assessment information on the internet for additional feedback from the public.
Once you have all the required information, you will prepare an environmental assessment report that outlines the potential environmental consequences of the development and provides conclusions on the significance of the residual effects on the environment.
If the project is approved, you may also be involved in following up on the assessment, for example, monitoring during pipeline construction to ensure that mitigation measures are implemented and effective, and the residual effects remain insignificant.
Job duties vary significantly from one position to the next, but in general, environmental assessment analysts are involved in the following activities:
Environmental assessment analysts can work in a variety of locations, including:
There are a number of places environmental assessment analysts can find employment. They include:
Search for jobs on the ECO Canada job board.
If you are considering a career as an environmental assessment analyst, you should have a keen interest in:
In most cases, the minimum education requirement is a university undergraduate degree. If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as an environmental assessment analyst, the following programs are most applicable:
It is generally not necessary to be certified to work as an environmental assessment analyst, though professional status is recommended, which can be obtained through their provincial associations. You may also find the Certified Environmental Professional (EP) designation useful.
Hard/ Technical Skills (skills obtained through formal education and training programs)
Soft Skills (personal attributes and characteristics)
Environmental employers look for professionals who can combine technical knowledge with soft skills. Watch our free webinar “Essential Not Optional: Skills Needed to Succeed in Canada’s Environmental Industry” or take our Essential Skills courses.
"It was a combination of luck and ambition that I found a job in the environmental assessment industry.” In 1971, Mel Falk had just completed his master’s in zoology from the University of Manitoba. "There were few jobs for people like myself at the time on the prairies.” But Mel took a chance and walked into the Department of Fisheries and Oceans office in Winnipeg. To his surprise, they were hiring people with a master’s in natural sciences. They needed scientists to assess the environmental impact of the then-proposed Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline.
Before he knew it, Mel was working in the Northwest Territories as an environmental assessment analyst. "Our job was to study fish, and it was up to us to determine what kinds of fish were there, where they travelled to, and how the pipeline could affect them.” Mel went on to work for Parks Canada and Public Works and Government Services Canada, where he refined his environmental assessment skills. More than 30 years later, Mel is now the president of his own company, Falk Environmental Inc., based in Winnipeg. The company provides professional environmental assessment and environmental education services to the public and private sectors.
Mel usually works seven days a week, with three to five projects going at a time. His private-sector clients include engineering and environmental consulting companies and a variety of industries, everything from transportation, communication, to heritage buildings and sewage treatment plants. "An environmental assessor is a jack of all trades and needs to be knowledgeable in a variety of disciplines and current in environmental assessment practices.” Mel spends most of his time at one of four desks, each representing a different project.
Whether he’s working at his desk in downtown Winnipeg or downtown Victoria, or his home office in suburban Winnipeg or Sidney, BC, most of his time is spent in front of a computer. His tasks include reading environmental publications, reviewing specifications, and writing and reviewing environmental assessment reports. When Mel is at a project site, he might be collecting soil, vegetation, and water samples or taking photos of the project in its various stages. According to Mel, one of the most important on-site tasks is speaking to potentially affected people such as landowners, neighbours, Aboriginal people, resource users, and harvesters. "For an environmental assessor, speaking with the people will yield far more information about the project location and potential effects than taking samples.” But sometimes taking the time to speak with people isn’t possible. Some clients have their own agenda.
The company may want the environmental assessment completed as quickly as possible in order to obtain a licence or approval so it can move on to the project’s construction. "There have been cases when it is not ethical or is immoral to proceed with a project because the environment may be compromised.” Mel believes the industry is not to blame for this unethical approach, but there needs to be a better understanding of the role of environmental assessments and assessment analysts in the early stages of proposed projects. According to Mel, the solution lies with the implementation of assessment standards and national professional certifications, such as Canadian Certified Environmental Practitioner. "Certification is the only way to ensure the industry can operate properly while the environment and the public are protected.”
As an environmental assessment analyst, you consider environmental effects and mitigations early in the project planning cycle.
Your work helps inform better decision making that contributes to responsible development of natural resources. You have a strong interest in the environment and your assessment cuts across various aspects such as forestry, trees, water, waste, agriculture and cleanliness of surroundings.
Most environmental assessment analysts have a background in engineering or sciences such as biology, ecology, chemistry, or geography. With their skillset and experience in environmental assessment, they can contribute to important concerns such as pollution, climate change, and waste management.
Using both quantitative and qualitative methods to analyse and understand the complexities, costs, and benefits to the environment and project development their assessment reports aim to reduce project costs and delays and the risk of environmental harm or disasters.
Individuals employed as Environmental Assessment Analysts may be classified in one or more of the following occupational groupings:
The National Occupation Classification (NOC) provides a standardized language for describing the work performed by Canadians in the labour market. It gives statisticians, labour market analysts, career counsellors, employers, and individual job seekers a consistent way to collect data, describe and understand the nature of work within different occupations.
The NOC is developed and updated in partnership with Statistics Canada to coincide with the 5- year census cycles. It is based on in-depth occupational research and consultations conducted across Canada, to reflect changes in the Canadian labour market.
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