In a series of posts in 2012, we commented on the rollback of environmental protection implemented by the Harper Government’s federal Omnibus Budget Bill C-38, which included a recasting of the federal environmental assessment regime, the pipeline approval process and the protection of navigable waters.
The Government announced yesterday an interim approach to environmental assessment that includes principles and plans for major projects. These principles are the first part of the recently elected Trudeau Government’s broader strategy to review Canada’s environmental assessment processes.
The following principles are intended to provide greater certainty as to how the Government of Canada will be guided in the application of its discretionary decision-making authorities for projects being assessed during the review of environmental assessment processes:
1. No project proponent will be asked to return to the starting line — project reviews will continue within the current legislative framework and in accordance with treaty provisions, under the auspices of relevant responsible authorities and Northern regulatory boards;
2. Decisions will be based on science, traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples and other relevant evidence;
3. The views of the public and affected communities will be sought and considered;
4. Indigenous peoples will be meaningfully consulted, and where appropriate, impacts on their rights and interests will be accommodated; and
5. Direct and upstream greenhouse gas emissions linked to the projects under review will be assessed.
Pending a full review of environmental processes, timely decisions on individual projects will depend upon the provision of sufficient information and evidence in accordance with these principles. Where required, steps will be taken to gather additional evidence.
The Government announcement notes that addressing climate change in Canada will require collaboration with Canada’s provinces and territories to incorporate greenhouse gas emissions in environmental assessment processes and as part of a national climate change framework. To inform these processes, upstream greenhouse gas emissions associated with projects under review will be assessed.
Manning Environmental Law is a Canadian law firm based in Toronto, Ontario. Our practice is focussed on environmental law, energy law and aboriginal law.
Paul Manning is a certified specialist in environmental law. He has been named as one of Canada’s leading Environmental Lawyers by Who’s Who Legal: Canada and ranked by Lexpert as one of Canada’s Leading Energy Lawyers.
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