Bill C-69 – The Impact Assessment Act & The Canadian Energy Regulator Act - The Government of Canada

On Thursday, May 16, 2019, the Senate energy committee that studied Bill C-69 proposed 187 amendments in a report that will be sent the Senate as a whole to adopt prior to sending the Bill to the government who will have an opportunity to adopt or reject the amendments. I encourage you to contact every Senator to express your concerns over the impacts of the Bill.


Contact information can be found at: https://sencanada.ca/en/contact-information/


In addition, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is seeking public comments to inform the development of the proposed Impact Assessment Act (Bill C-69) until May 31, 2019. They are seeking feedback on:


1. The types of projects that may be subject to an impact assessment

2. Information requirements and timelines

We are fortunate to have the opportunity to provide our input on a piece of legislation of this magnitude; you have an opportunity to influence this Bill by providing feedback by May 31, 2019 at:


https://www.impactassessmentregulations.ca/homepage-sandbox

Comments are limited to 255 characters for each section and you can only submit feedback once per section.


The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has created two discussion papers on the topics that provide an easy-to-read summary. Below are some of my observations on these discussion papers, both positive and negative:


Proposed Project List


· There appears to be a level of subjectivity within this discussion paper. They speak to “good projects”; however, they aren’t defined, and that is a measurement that could change based on what’s popular at the moment.


· The impact of changes to the environment outside Canada (e.g. greenhouse gas emissions) have been included as part of the criteria for determining if a project should be included in the Impact Assessment Act’s list. That’s far too broad of a scope and will negatively impact Canada’s competitiveness, particularly with the USA.


· The Impact Assessment Agency will determine whether or not an impact assessment is required and why within 180 days, allowing proponents time to prepare for the assessment rather than waiting to find out if they will be subject to an assessment.


· Some projects will be subject to the new federal Impact Assessment Act even though they are already subject to provincial regulations, such as those imposed by the Alberta Energy Regulator, with the federal government retaining authority over areas within federal jurisdictions. This will require a clear distinction and delineation of responsibilities.


· Under the section related to pipelines, Section 4.4 “Linear and Transportation-related Projects”, the paper identifies that these projects “can also create hazards for birds due to risk of collision (transmission lines and motor vehicles are a large contributor to bird mortality)”; however, it doesn’t mention these risks under the section on wind projects. There is little mention of the potential adverse effects from renewable energy projects; as a result, there appears to be an inherent bias in favour of these projects built into the legislation.


· Under Section 4.9 “Federal Lands and Protected Areas”, “The federal government exercises primary jurisdiction over federal lands and can consider any environmental effects resulting from projects including those to the land, water, air and all of flora and fauna.” This section provides a broad reach of authority for the regulator, and ultimately, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change.


· New to the federal regulatory regime are in situ oil sands facilities with a bitumen production capacity of 2,000 m3 /day or more and the expansion of an existing in situ oil sands facility that would become that same size.


· I think it’s positive that the project list will be reviewed every 5 years so that it remains current.


Timelines


· There still appears to be a significant amount of political discretion granted to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change built into these Acts. Political discretion can still interfere with timelines; however, there are restrictions around when and how time limits can be suspended or extended that will provide some protection from biased interference. “Suspension of time limits: may only be used for proponent-driven reasons, in accordance with criteria set out in regulations. Extension of time limits: available to address matters within Government mandate, and may only be used by the Minister once for a period of 90 days, with further extensions requiring Governor in Council approval.”


· There appears to be a desire to make notifications and decisions more transparent by using the Impact Assessment Registry.


· The Act requires the electronic submission of information by requiring that “information provided by proponents be provided in a machine-readable, accessible format… This would support the Government’s commitment to Open Science and Data and would facilitate the sharing of information with the public through the Agency’s online public registry and the Government’s new Open Science and Data Platform.”


· There is a requirement for proponents to provide a plan language summary of information that can be easily understood by the public. There is also an obligation to identify the report’s lead authors and their expertise.


· The “Information Requirements and Time Management Regulations” will be reviewed every 5 years.


Although Bill C-69 proposes some improvements, I believe Canada should aim to have a regulatory process in place that is robust enough to protect the environment, but not so burdensome that it chokes progress and development. This new legislation does not allow Canada to compete effectively, particularly with jurisdictions like the USA, and I believe it is a very problematic bill.

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