Bill C-15, the Northwest Territories Devolution Act (the
"Act"), received Royal Assent on March 25, and the
transfer of responsibilities from the federal government to the
government of the Northwest Territories is to take effect on April
1, 2014. Devolution to the N.W.T. government has occurred gradually
since its establishment in 1967, and the Act significantly advances
the process, resulting in the territorial legislature having powers
roughly equivalent to those of a province. Most significantly, the
N.W.T. government will assume management of most of the public
lands, resources and waters in the N.W.T. that are currently under
the oversight of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Following devolution under the Act, the N.W.T. government will
administer new leases and mineral rights, but existing interests
will not be impacted. In particular, the N.W.T. government will
have jurisdiction to:
Lease public lands, and grant exploration and production rights
for petroleum and mineral resources;
Decide on certain final water licence and environmental
approvals (including Type A water licences required for mining
Collect resource royalties and proceeds from sales of public
lands and revenue-share with Aboriginal governments (with related
changes to federal transfers, the N.W.T. government will retain 50%
of resource revenue); and
Regulate oil and gas activities in the Mackenzie Valley
(except for the Norman Wells Proven Area, which will remain
federally administered but with royalties going to the N.W.T.
The federal government will retain management of contaminated
sites and lands and infrastructure for which there is a national
interest. The federal National Energy Board will continue to
administer offshore oil and gas development, as well as to
regulate oil and gas activities in the Inuvialuit Settlement
Region. In the Mackenzie Valley, permits for land and water use, as
well as environmental reviews, will continue to be governed under
the existing federal statute, the Mackenzie Valley Resource
Management Act. However, the Act amends the Mackenzie Valley land
and water permitting regime, restructuring the governance model and
imposing new timelines for water licensing and environmental
reviews. Certain Aboriginal groups oppose the new governance
structure, indicating that they may challenge the changes as
inconsistent with their treaty rights.
Resource companies with interests in N.W.T. will want to closely
monitor the devolution process with respect to impacts on
permitting requirements and Aboriginal relations.
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