Federal Government Seeks To Overhaul The Environmental Assesement Process
Recently the Federal Government introduced amendments to several environmental statutes through Bill C-38, titled the “Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act”. Bill C-38 is a budget implementation bill that seeks to implement provisions of the budget tabled on March 29th, 2012.
Bill C-38, amongst other measures, proposes to enact the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (the “CEAA”) which will establish a new federal environmental assessment regime.
Statements made by the federal government suggest that designated projects will be defined to focus on “major projects”, although there has been little direction provided to date as to what would constitute a major project.
The Minister has authority to vary these time-limits.
The CEAA includes several transitional provisions to deal with projects that will be already be undergoing environmental assessment at the time the CEAA comes into force.
The transitional provisions of the CEAA do not give guidance on how the Ministerial requirement to establish time limits will interact with previously agreed to timelines.
Delegation and Substitution
The CEAA seeks to establish an environmental assessment process guided by the principle of “one project, one review”.
The determination of whether a person or group is directly affected will be made either by the responsible authority or the review panel, as applicable.
The CEAA holds that any person who contravenes an order or does not comply with the conditions of a decision statement is guilty of an offence and is subject to a fine not exceeding $200,000 for a first offence and a fine not exceeding $400,000 for a subsequent offence.
Any person who is held to have obstructed or hindered a designated person from exercising their duties under the CEAA is guilty of an offence and is subject to a fine not exceeding $100,000 for a first offence and is subject to a fine not exceeding $300,000 for a subsequent offence.
The CEAA constitutes a comprehensive overhaul of the federal environmental process and represents one of the most fundamental shifts in Canada’s regulatory and environmental policy in its history.
It must also be noted that the CEAA is not yet law, and further changes and clarifications could emerge through the parliamentary process.