BC and Canada Sign Memorandum of Understanding on the Substitution of Environmental Assessments

Environmental, Energy and Resources Law

March 19, 2013

The BC Environmental Assessment Office (BC EAO) and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) announced today that they have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (the "MOU") on the substitution of environmental assessments for single projects and for classes of designated projects, and the coordination of Aboriginal consultation on such projects. Substitution means the substitution of the provincial process for the federal process while still requiring two separate decisions by the BC Minister of Environment and the Federal Minister of Environment. It does not involve the implemetation of an equivalent process.

The MOU establishes the timing and process for determining whether substitution is suitable for a project, procedures for delegating  Aboriginal consultation, and the requirements for substitution. A process may be initiated by the BC EAO on written notice to First Nations, the public and stakeholders, of its decision to request approval from the Federal Minister for a substituted process pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. Once initiated, the next step is for the BC EAO to contact the Federal Minister of Environment (Canada) to request substitution for an environmental assessment pursuant to the MOU If approved, the BC EAO will conduct the environmental assessment and Aboriginal consutlation and prepare a report for consideration by the Federal Minister of Environment (Canada) and the BC Minister of Environment. If the project is not approved for review under a substituted process, the Parties may enter into discussions to arrange a cooperative assessment or joint review panel.

 The primary purposes of the MOU are to provide for a more timely and efficient environmental assessment process and to avoid duplication and the costs, often associated with cooperative and/or concurrent processes. The MOU came into effect on March 6, 2013 and there are already  two projects approved for substitution: the Carbon Creek Coal Mine and Sukunka Coal projects.