The Government of Canada has announced plans to streamline federal natural resources and environmental oversight. The objective is to reduce federal oversight of natural resource development projects by restricting federal involvement to only those projects with national significance and with significant environmental effect. The Canadian Environment Assessment Agency currently handles environmental assessments of which 94% were small projects. Presumably oversight for most of these small projects will become the responsibility of the provinces. There will also be a time limit on the duration of environmental reviews. And instead of up to 40 agencies participating in environmental reviews, in the future only three agencies, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission will be responsible for reviews.
Specific details as announced today are
- “One project, one review” system for reviews of major projects by recognizing provincial processes as substitutes or equivalents to federal ones as long as they meet the requirements under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act
- Time limits for hearings and assessments, namely, 24 months for panel reviews, 18 months for National Energy Board hearings and 12 months for standard environmental assessments. Setting legally binding timelines for key regulatory permitting processes, including the Fisheries Act, the Species at Risk Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the Nuclear Safety and Control Act;
- Consolidating the number of organizations responsible for reviews from more than 40 to three: The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission;
- Focusing federal assessment efforts on major projects that can have significant environmental effects;
- Introducing enforceable environmental assessment decision statements under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The proposed penalties could range up to $400,000;
- Requiring follow-up programs after all environmental assessments to verify the accuracy of the predictions regarding potential environmental effects and to determine if mitigation measures are working as intended;
- Providing federal inspectors with the authority to examine whether or not conditions of a decision statement are met;
- Authorizing the use of administrative monetary penalties for violations of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the National Energy Board Act.
- Providing more than $35 million over two years for marine safety.
- Prioviding $13.5 million over two years to strengthen pipeline safety, including regulations to strengthen the tanker safety regime and increasing the number of oil and gas pipeline inspections each year by 50 percent, from 100 to 150 inspections.