Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
OTTAWA - August 28, 2012 - Canada's Minister of the Environment, the Honourable Peter Kent, issued the following statement:
"I would like to take this opportunity to clarify recent reports on changes to the environmental assessment act, which have given the impression that Canada's environmental protection regime is now somehow weakened. This is simply not the case. Projects that are no longer undergoing environmental assessments are still subject to strong federal environmental protection laws and regulations including: the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Fisheries Act, the Migratory Birds Convention Act, and the Species at Risk Act. In addition, many projects are also subject to provincial certificates of approval, permits for emissions of air and water and waste management, and local municipal permits. Furthermore, where the projects are on federal land, the federal authority has an obligation under the new environmental assessment legislation to ensure there are no significant adverse environmental effects.
"At the same time, I have ordered major "screening" assessments under the old law (such as the Old Harry offshore exploratory project in the Gulf of St Lawrence) to continue, and I have directed that consultations on the proposed new project list include all partners and stakeholders.
"The new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA 2012) has stronger enforcement provisions than the old Act. Canadians expect their laws and regulations to be enforced. For example, the new Act prohibits a proponent from proceeding with a project, identified in regulations, unless it undergoes an environmental assessment or unless the government decides that one is not required. In addition, at the end of an environmental assessment, proponents will have to comply with conditions set out in a decision statement. Federal inspectors, for the first time, will have authority to examine whether conditions set out in an environmental assessment decision statement are met. Finally, there are proposed penalties for violations that range from $100,000 to $400,000.
"Stricter enforcement is enabled by our government's bolstered capacity. We increased enforcement boots-on-the-ground by 50% in 2007, we invested an additional $21 million in 2008 to support enforcement work, and we passed the Environmental Enforcement Act in 2010. This year, despite our focus on deficit reduction, Budget 2012 increased the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency budget by 5%. Why? Because we recognize the importance of responsible resource development, which enables us to create jobs, grow the economy, and protect the environment at the same time.
"With regard to the elimination of "screenings", the "screenings" designation under the previous environmental assessment Act captured thousands of small and routine projects with little risk of significant environmental impact. These minor projects were automatically required to undergo an environmental assessment under the former Act because the project was on federal land, included federal funds, or tripped another similar "trigger". Rather than focusing on these minor projects, our government has decided to focus federal environmental assessment efforts on major projects with significant negative impact and risk to the environment. Here are just three examples of projects (there are many more available online) that generated unnecessary paperwork, time and expense and diverted resources from major project assessments:
"It has been clear for years that the former Act, which demanded thousands of low-risk screenings, was inherently flawed. That was the conclusion of the independent Environment Commissioner in both 2009 and 2012, when he confirmed that nearly all these screenings dealt with projects unlikely to cause adverse environmental affects or pose significant environmental risks. He stated, very clearly, that assessment resources could be much appropriately focused on major projects that presented possible significant environmental impact.
"With regard to the assessment of proposed major pipeline projects, there have been claims from several quarters that there is inadequate review. In fact, the National Energy Board (NEB) will continue to review these projects through an improved rigorous review of environmental considerations. The NEB will follow the same process whether an EA is required or not. The only difference is the amount of paperwork. Let's be clear; pushing paper does not protect the environment, but does add a regulatory burden that kills jobs.
"Finally, it is important to note that there is a safety-net authority built into our plan. As federal Environment Minister, I can require an environmental assessment for any exceptional project not identified in the new project list. For example: a relatively routine type of project in a proposed location of significant environmental risk."
For more information on our responsible resource development initiative, please visit http://actionplan.gc.ca/page/r2d-dr2/responsible-resource-development.
Minister of the Environment and Minister Responsible for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
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