The federal Conservatives have made no secret of their desire to
cut back federal environmental assessment. Federal EA has often
been criticized, especially in the west, for:
duplicating provincial environmental assessments,
intruding on areas of provincial jurisdiction, and
adding cost and delay to resource and development
The biggest reason for federal intrusion on areas of provincial
jurisdiction has been one of the four triggers for federal EA under
the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act: if a project
draws federal funds, it can require federal EA. (The other three
are federal lands, permits, or proponents.) Last year, the Harper
Conservatives excluded from EA most projects that received national
stimulus funds. Now, they have broadened this exclusion: there will
no longer be federal EA for most projects that receive national
funding under a whole series of programs, including infrastructure,
sports facilities, borders and housing.
Other changes include:
1. Most comprehensive federal
environmental assessments will now be performed by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency ,
instead of other federal departments. The agency has greater
expertise, and may be able to perform the assessments more quickly.
It may also have less of a stake in the projects it is
2. The Minister of the Environment can now "scope"
federal EAs, as some provinces now do. For example, if a bridge is
needed for a massive mine/mill complex, the federal EA can now be
limited to just the bridge. This will overturn a recent court
victory by environmentalists..
3. There will no longer be a separate EA of projects that are
before the National
Energy Board or Nuclear Safety Commission (as announced last
month). However, these two boards will now have power to create
participant funding programs, to subsidize public participation in
their hearings. .
Do the changes matter?
4. Federal EA overlaps, but has not been the same as, provincial
environmental assessment. One of the key differences : national assessments have been
required to consider cumulative effects; provincial ones generally
don't. Eliminating federal EA therefore makes it less likely
that cumulative impacts will be evaluated, such as climate change.
In addition, national processes have been more open to people in
other parts of the country.
The official summary of the Bill describes the changes as:
Part 19 amends the National Energy Board Act in order
to give the National Energy Board the power to create a participant
funding program to facilitate the participation of the public in
hearings that are held under section 24 of that Act. It also amends
the Nuclear Safety and Control Act to give the Canadian
Nuclear Safety Commission the power to create a participant funding
program to facilitate the participation of the public in
proceedings under that Act and the power to prescribe fees for that
Part 20 amends the Canadian Environmental Assessment
Act to streamline certain process requirements for
comprehensive studies, to give the Canadian Environmental
Assessment Agency authority to conduct most comprehensive studies
and to give the Minister of the Environment the power to establish
the scope of any project in relation to which an environmental
assessment is to be conducted. It also amends that Act to provide,
in legislation rather than by regulations, that an environmental
assessment is not required for certain federally funded
infrastructure projects and repeals sunset clauses in the
Regulations Amending the Exclusion List Regulations,
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
Ontario's Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change continues to roll out its Climate Change Action Plan with its proposed GHG guide for projects that are subject to the province's Environmental Assessment Act.
The Imperial Oil refinery pled guilty to one offence for discharging a contaminant, coker stabilizer, thermocracked gas, into the natural environment causing an adverse effect and was fined $650,000...
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).