Government to consult on proposed EIA reform this summer
On June 29, 2017, the federal government released a discussion paper (Environmental and Regulatory Reviews: Proposed Approach) outlining its proposed response to recommendations contained in four reports* released at the start of this year dealing with environmental impact assessment reforms
- Proposed changes to the Environmental Impact Assessment regime: Key reforms aimed at rebuilding trust in the project assessment system include, among other things;
- establishing a single agency for federal environmental assessments;
- broadening reviews to consider cumulative effects;
- improving the current project list approach by introducing new processes to review and amend the list as necessary;
- maintaining legislated deadlines for assessments, but with flexibility to reflect exceptional circumstances;
- requiring assessment of impacts on Indigenous peoples, and providing for greater Indigenous participation on assessment boards and review panels;
- broadening the scope of environmental assessments to consider economic, social and health impacts in addition to environmental impacts; and
- implementing a new early engagement and planning stage that would be led by proponents under direction from Canada.
- Proposals to reform the National Energy Board (NEB): The discussion paper also proposes radical reforms to change the governance structure of the NEB in order to establish a corporate-style board. The proposals would increase Indigenous representation on the board and among hearing commissioners, and expand the authority of the NEB to cover renewable energy projects and infrastructure in offshore areas under federal jurisdiction.
Back to the future for Fisheries Act: The key fisheries-related change identified in the discussion paper is a return to prohibition of the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction (HADD) of fish habitat without approval. The discussion paper also proposes clarification for when Fisheries Act authorizations are needed for projects and when they are not, identification of measures to avoid and mitigate harm to habitat through development and enforcement of standards and codes of practice. The discussion paper also indicates that project proponents will be subject to increased reporting requirements in relation to activities affecting fish and fish habitat.
Stakeholders have been invited to submit comments on the government’s proposals between June 29, 2017 and August 28, 2017. Legislation based on the proposed reforms is expected as early as this Fall.
Access discussion paper at: