Tenth in a series on the ‘Now or Never” report of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources (ENEV).
Priority 10 discusses changes that need to occur to the environmental assessment process. The federal government plays a key role in regulating how a project will affect the environmental and is moving forward with its long term goal of what the ENEV report refers to as ‘one project, one review’.
The key here is streamlining. This means that the federal government will move to only two kinds of reviews and set specific maximum timelines for these reviews. The standard environmental assessment now has a maximum timeline of one year and two years is the new timeline for review panels. The new process also consolidates responsibility for environmental assessment to three organizations: The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the National Energy Board. Shifting responsibility to these three groups is not a major change as the role they will now play is within their mandates.
Size does matter. Federal reform will also reduce the number of assessments for small projects. This move may result in more resources being available to address major projects that have big environmental implications. Reform will also increase penalties and introduce enforceable assessment decision statements to ensure projects meet conditions to protect the environment. And reform includes some measures to improve the consultation process with First Nations.
What you should take away from today’s lesson is that the careful steps of the regulatory process that helps ensure Canada is protecting its environment and its citizens has to evolve to better foster its own responsible resource development.