The Federal Environment Minister issued the first Decision
Statement under the new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act,
2012 (the "CEAA 2012"). The
Decision Statement was issued in connection with Shell Canada's
proposed Jackpine Mine Expansion project (the
"Project"). The Project has been
approved by Federal Cabinet, despite findings of the Federal
Environment Minister that the expansion would likely cause
significant adverse environmental effects.
The Project would expand Jackpine Mine to access neighboring oil
sands deposits. The expansion would include construction of
processing facilities, utilities and infrastructure, and would
increase bitumen production by 100,000 barrels per day. Jackpine
Mine is located approximately 70 km north of Fort McMurray on the
east side of the Athabasca River.
Join Review Panel Decision
A federal-provincial review panel (the
"Panel"), ruled in favour of the Project
in July, despite findings that there would be significant adverse
effects on certain wildlife and vegetation in the area. In coming
to its decision the Panel noted that the proposed expansion is in
an area surrounded by other oil sands mines; the Alberta government
has identified bitumen extraction as a priority use in the area;
and that the Project would provide significant economic benefits to
the region, Province, and Canada.
After considering the report of the Panel, the Federal
Environment Minister held that the Project would likely cause
significant adverse environmental effects. This determination
triggered the provisions of the CEAA 2012, requiring a referral to
Federal Cabinet. Federal Cabinet subsequently determined that the
significant adverse environmental effects are justified in the
circumstances. The Project can therefore proceed subject to
conditions set out by the Environment Minister in the Decision
Statement. Generally, the conditions can be classified as:
1. preserving plants, aquatic and terrestrial wildlife;
If Shell Canada does not comply with the conditions set out in
the Decision Statement, it will face compliance and enforcement
action. This may include financial penalties of up to $400,000 per
day if convicted for a continuing offence.
Although Shell Canada's expansion of Jackpine Mine can
proceed, Federal Cabinet provided no explanation to support its
conclusion. Presumably Federal Cabinet relied on the recommendation
and reasoning of the Panel, which included consideration of
"significant economic benefits." Moving forward, however,
it remains unclear what factors Federal Cabinet will take into
consideration to approve a project.
The content of this article does not constitute legal advice
and should not be relied on in that way. Specific advice should be
sought about your specific circumstances.
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Canada is a constitutional monarchy, a parliamentary democracy and a federation comprised of ten provinces and three territories. Canada's judiciary is independent of the legislative and executive branches of Government.
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