On April 5, 2017, the Expert Panel appointed by Canada's
Minister of Environment and Climate Change released their report on
the review of federal environmental assessment processes. The
report, titled Building Common Ground: A New Vision for Impact
Assessment in Canada, describes the consultation undertaken by
the four-person Expert Panel and sets out a large number of
The Expert Panel report is intended to be an
important input into the Government of Canada's ongoing review
of environmental and regulatory processes (described in an earlier
post). This ongoing process also includes a review of the
National Energy Board (NEB), with the aim of
"modernizing" the NEB. A separate Expert Panel was
appointed to assist in that review, but that work is ongoing.
According to NEB Modernization Expert Panels' website,
their report is expected by May 15, 2017.
Some key observations and recommendations in the Expert Panel report about federal
environmental assessment processes include the following:
Environmental Assessments should be looked at more broadly as
"Impact Assessments." The Expert Panel believes that
assessment processes must "move beyond the bio-physical
environment to encompass all impacts likely to result from a
project." The impacts to be considered should be based on the
"five pillars of sustainability" (environment, economy,
social, cultural and health).
The decision about whether a project should proceed ought to be
based on a determination of the project's contribution to
sustainability. This is a broader review than simply looking at the
environmental effects of a project.
There should be a single federal authority to conduct and
decide upon Impact Assessments on behalf of the Federal government,
as compared to the current approach which involves different
decision-makers depending on the nature of the project.
There should be commitment to the notion of "one project,
one assessment," so that there are not multiple assessments
(federal and provincial) for projects. This will require
co-operation and coordination among levels of government.
The Impact Assessment process should be updated to ensure early
and ongoing and meaningful participation by Indigenous peoples and
members of the public.
As recognized in the Expert Panel report, many of the
recommendations would require legislative changes.
In a news release issued along with the Expert Panel report, the Canadian
Environmental Assessment Agency invites interested parties to
submit comments in response by May 5, 2017. The comments can be
submitted at letstalkea.ca. All comments received, as well
as the Expert Panel report itself, will be taken into
account in the government's planned updates to environmental
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On April 5, 2017, Environment and Climate Change Canada released the report of an external Expert Panel that was established in August 2016 to review the scope and process of federal environmental assessments under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.
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