Eyeing the Overhaul of Canada's Environmental Assessment Process

Keep your eyes open for changes to Canada's Environmental Assessment Process

Keep your eyes on our blog for further updates as we learn more about next steps! (Photo by Molly Richardson)

 

Eyes Wide Open

 

The first steps in an overhaul of Canada’s Environmental Assessment process are “weeks, not months” away according to Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr.  Canada's new federal government pledges to “immediately review” the assessment process and “modernize” the National Energy Board (NEB).  As Environmental Assessment practitioners, we're eyeing this overhaul closely.  Keep your eyes on our blog for further updates as we learn more about next steps!

The mandates for the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna come from a set of "Mandate Letters" that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent to his cabinet ministers on November 13, 2015 (a.k.a. "Trudeau's Mandate Letters") - following a similar process adopted by his provincial colleague Premier Kathleen Wynne (see our posts on the Ontario mandate letters).

The Minister of the Environment and Climate Change is mandated to, with the Ministers of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Natural Resources, and the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, "immediately review Canada’s environmental assessment processes to regain public trust  and help get resources to market and introduce new, fair processes that will:

  • restore robust oversight and thorough environmental assessments of areas under federal jurisdiction, while also working with provinces and territories to avoid duplication;
  • ensure that decisions are based on science, facts, and evidence, and serve the public’s interest;
  • provide ways for Canadians to express their views and opportunities for experts to meaningfully participate; and require project advocates to choose the best technologies available to reduce environmental impacts". 

The Minister of Natural Resources is also mandated to

  • Modernize the National Energy Board to ensure that its composition reflects regional views and has sufficient expertise in fields such as environmental science, community development, and Indigenous traditional knowledge. 

 

We're hearing ideas about overhauling Canada's Environmental Assessment Process

Ear's open too (Photo by Molly Richardson)

We're Listening Too

People who care are paying attention to this overhaul.  We had some internal chats, spoke with expert colleagues, and talked with some clients on the frontlines of Environmental Assessments to get some perspectives on overhauling Canada's Environmental Assessment process.  If you have ideas, drop us a line at info@sharedvaluesolutions.com.  Here are 15 ideas we've heard so far:

 

Environmental Assessments Under Federal Jurisdiction

1) Collaborate with Indigenous Nations: Start with a truly collaborative overhaul of Environmental Assessment legislation and regulations with Canada's indigenous nations, on a nation to nation basis - remembering that Idle No More was in part started by indigenous nations having serious issues with federal omnibus bills that removed triggers for environmental assessments that might provide protections for forests and waterways 

2) Integrate Traditional Knowledge: More robust guidance on meaningful integration of indigenous traditional knowledge in Environmental Assessments (sometimes referred to as aboriginal traditional knowledge in Environmental Assessments)

3) Enhance Cumulative Effects Assessment: Make sure there is sufficient consideration of future projects, consideration of trends and direction of trends in the quality of the regional environment

4) Enhance Socioeconomic Impact Assessment: Provide sufficient consideration for connections between impacts and socioeconomic conditions, and consideration of socioeconomic and demographic trends

5) Maximize Shared Value Infrastructure: Make sure there is full consideration of ways and means to maximize positive local and regional infrastructure impacts, especially the role resource extraction projects and energy projects can have in attracting appropriate power (clean, low-carbon), transportation, water and telecommunication services to rural and remote areas, and indigenous nations

6) Climate Change Impacts on Projects and Local Contexts: Increase attention to the impacts of climate change on projects, with meaningful integration of indigenous knowledge and climate change understandings and experiences of climate change impacts in local and regional contexts

7) Net Socioeconomic Benefits:  Make sure there are project need and rationale tests for local and regional net equitable socioeconomic benefits for major projects

8) Deal Better with Project Expansions: Dealing with project expansions better in screening and scoping will drive longer-term planning

9) Make Follow-up Programs Relevant and Inclusive: Beyond reiterating regulatory compliance requirements, follow-up programs need real focus on evaluating assumptions of the original Environmental Assessment and the potential for third-party participation in monitoring and evaluation of assumptions where it relates to livelihoods and health, especially with indigenous nations

 

National Energy Board
 

10) Collaborate with Indigenous Nations on NEB Reform: As with Environmental Assessments via the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA), collaboratively overhaul of the NEB approval process in partnership with Canada's indigenous nations - remembering that Idle No More was in part started by indigenous nations having serious issues with the federal omnibus bill (Bill C-45) that overhauled the Navigable Waters Protection Act with direct implications for pipeline approval processes

11) Stop Excluding Pipeline Conversion Construction from Environmental Assessments: Stop excluding pipeline conversion construction and refurbishments (gas pipelines to oil and vice versa) from federal Environmental Assessments (e.g. reduce use of Section 58)

12) More CEAA Oversight:  Increasing Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) oversight in the NEB process, including having CEAA issue full guidelines for project Environmental Assessments

13) Realistic Participant Funding for Indigenous Nations: Provide adequate funding for indigenous nation participants in Environmental Assessments that may impact their rights and interests (in the case of the Energy East review for example, the NEB recently cut the amount of funding available in half, from the promised but likely still inadequate amount of $80,000 to the only $40,000)

14) Upstream Impacts Count: Include the "upstream" assessment of pipeline project impacts, including impacts on climate change, watersheds (e.g. hydraulic fracturing impacts), emissions (e.g. methane releases)

15) Make "Operations and Maintenance" Activities Transparent and Consultative: Overhaul regulations on "Operations and maintenance" so that all non-emergency excavations and soil disturbances include site specific environmental assessment processes that include full regional and indigenous nation notifications, adequate opportunities to review and comment on environmental protection plans, integration of indigenous traditional knowledge to protect indigenous rights and interests, and full compliance with provincial, territorial and indigenous nation archaeological assessment requirements, standards and guidelines


 Keep watching this space for further updates as we learn more about next steps!

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