Hill Times: Harper to “Streamline” Environmental Assessments for $500 Billion of Resource Projects


Read this story from the Ottawa Hill Times on the Harper Government’s intention to fast-track $500 Billion worth of proposed resource development projects by “streamlining” environmental assessments. (July 2, 2012)

As the federal government looks to streamline the approval of an estimated $500-billion worth of investment in 500 mining and energy projects over the next 10 years, industry and environmental groups say they will wait and see how new timelines under Bill C-38, the Budget Implementation Act, will affect environmental assessments already underway.

Bill C-38, the Budget Implementation Act, passed its third and final reading in the House of Commons on June 18, days after a 24-four hour marathon vote on 159 bundled opposition amendments.

The Senate passed the controversial 425-page bill, which amends 70 pieces of legislation and contains 150 pages of amendments to environmental laws and the federal environmental assessment process, before adjourning for the summer on Friday, June 29.

Bill C-38 replaces the 1992 Environmental Assessment Act with a 2012 version that imposes a 24-month time limit on joint review panels involving the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the National Energy Board, and/or the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and 365 days on standard environmental assessments. The federal Environment minister can extend a review by up to three months, and Cabinet can further extend reviews. The federal minister of Natural Resources has similar authority to extend National Energy Board reviews.

In a May 29 appearance before the Senate Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver (Eglinton-Lawrence, Ont.) said that the reforms are necessary to streamline the approval of an estimated $500-billion worth of investment in 500 mining and energy projects over the next 10 years. Projects include oil and gas pipelines, mines, hydroelectric dams, oil and gas extraction, and wind and solar farms. Mr. Oliver estimated that the projects would create 700,000 new jobs over the next decade.

“Inefficient regulation leads to unnecessary and unpredictable project delays that can create additional costs for proponents and impede their ability to attract capital and stimulate economic activity,” said Mr. Oliver, who appeared before the committee alongside Environment Minister Peter Kent (Thornhill, Ont.) and Fisheries and Oceans Minister Keith Ashfield (Fredericton, N.B.). “Both industry and government are in agreement—Canada has suffered from this regulatory malaise for too long.”

Many of the 500 projects touted by the feds are already in some stage of assessment, however, and what the changes in Bill C-38 mean for projects already under review remains unclear. The budget bill contains transitional provisions for projects that are already under review. Under these provisions, the federal Environment minister will have the authority to decide whether assessments underway before Bill C-38 are sufficient, and will impose timelines on these current reviews.

Read more: http://www.hilltimes.com/news/news/2012/07/02/feds-look-to-streamline-$500-billion-worth-of-investments-in-resource-projects/31324