The environmental review of proposed resource projects in Canada
continues to undergo changes of late.
Back in 2012, a duo of omnibus bills–Bill C-38 and Bill
C-45–introduced significant changes to the way in which
resource projects, such as the construction and expansion of
pipelines. These changes included the scrapping and replacement of
the existingfederal environmental assessment legislation and
revisions to the National Energy Board Act.
These changes were problematic for a number of reasons,
including for their impacts upon the NEB's ability to consider
climate impacts when assessing prospective pipeline projects.
Subsequent to the introduction of these changes, the NEB
steadfastly refused to consider any upstream or climate impacts of
any kind in its review of pipeline projects.
The recently elected Liberal government has announced changes as part of a first step
towards setting the regime on a course towards incorporating
climate considerations in such evaluations. This
"interim" process will see that going forward, all
resource projects be assessedfor upstream greenhouse gas
The interim process will affect projects that have yet to be
proposed, as well as those thatare currently under
review–including thehotly contested Energy East and Trans
Mountain expansion projects.
It also plans to appoint a ministerial advisor who will be
responsible for consulting with first nation communities along
Conspicuously absent for the moment, however, has been any firm
commitment to repeal the changes introduced under the omnibus
Moreover, decisions pertaining to these interim assessments
— to be done in addition to the NEB process — will rest
with Cabinet. So the NEB's currentapproach does not appearto be
To what extent has the pendulum actually swung? What actual,
practical role will climate considerations play in these
Much remains to be seen.
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