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Framework for Analysis of the Quality of Screening Reports

2 Methods

With the input of members of the Subcommittee on Quality Assurance of the Senior Management Committee on Environmental Assessment (SMCEA), the Agency developed an initial set of indicators for possible inclusion in the framework. They were subsequently tested on a sample of 15 screening reports (Table 1) selected from the Agency’s library of screening reports for assessments commenced in 2004 and completed in either 2004 or 2005. The selected reports dealt with a range of project types with varying profiles in terms of their likely environmental effects and potential for eliciting the interest of members of the public.

Table 1. Screening Reports Analyzed in the Study
Project TitleProvinceCEARIS #Responsible Authority
Culvert Crossings and Relocation of Katzie Slough TributaryBC04-01-5343Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Terrace Kitimat Airport Society - Runway 33 ExtensionBC04-01-5543Western Economic Diversification Canada
Carseland-Bow River Headworks System RehabilitationAB04-01-1229Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Trans-Canada Highway Update, Banff National ParkAB04-01-1367Parks Canada Agency
Construct Secure Campground for Parking 120 VehiclesAB04-01-5260Department of National Defence
Black Lake Solid Waste LandfillSK04-01-8043Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
Assiniboine Forest Drainage EnhancementMB04-01-2786Environment Canada
Consolidation, Encapsulation and Monitoring of the Town of Churchill LandfillMB04-01-7277Public Works and Government Services Canada
Temiskaming Community PastureON04-01-5244Industry Canada
Highway 401/Country Road 41 Interchange Improvements, Town of Nappanee, Township of RichmondON04-01-5554Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Shoreland Reclamation, Paudash Lake, Cardiff TownshipON04-01-7709Department of National Defence
Route 2 Florenceville Bridge and Route 110 Interchange UpgradeNB04-01-2711Transport Canada
Cobrielle Brook Restoration-Phase1NS04-01-5275Parks Canada Agency
Infill along the Straight of Canso near Mulgrave, NSNS04-01-7527Transport Canada
Tourism Infrastructure DevelopmentNL04-01-1358Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

The testing process led to further refinement of the indicators until the point was reached where analysts were satisfied that the selected indicators provided an appropriate analytical framework for the full range of situations likely to be encountered. The final set of 16 indicators addressed the following six basic aspects of federal environmental assessment:

  1. Compliance with the Act (Indicators 1 to 5)
  2. Context for the reader (Indicators 6 to 8)
  3. Public input (Indicators 9 to 11)
  4. Environmental effects (Indicators 12 and 13)
  5. Mitigation measures (Indicators 14 and 15)
  6. Follow-up program (Indicator 16)

Further details on the indicators and the rationale for their selection are provided in Appendix 1.

It should be emphasized that the framework is not intended to be used as an overall yardstick of the adequacy of screening reports. It is often questionable whether a screening under the Act is the most appropriate environmental management mechanism for certain types of projects that currently require such assessments. Although it is still clearly necessary in those cases to meet legal requirements of the Act (Indicators 1 - 5), meeting a high standard of analysis and reporting (Indicators 6-16) may not in every case represent the most effective and efficient expenditure of resources. For the above reasons, the framework is also potentially useful for identifying those types of situations where environmental assessment under the Act might not be the best approach for achieving environmental protection objectives, and where changes to the Act or its regulations might be worth considering.

It should also be emphasized that the three indicators that were designed to address the aspects related to public input to screenings are interrelated and interdependent. Only Indicator 9 (Documenting the basis for determining whether or not to consult the public) is applicable to all of the assessments studied, while Indicator 10 (Direct or indirect public input to the screening) is relevant only to the limited number of situations where such input was appropriate, and Indicator 11 (Reflection of public input in screening report) is relevant only to those same situations.

For all of the foregoing reasons, it is important that the reader interpret the indicators on an individual basis, and avoid using them collectively to calculate an “overall score”.