Skip to content

NEWS: Harper gutting the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

The Globe and Mail reports, “Ottawa is planning to overhaul the country’s environmental assessment process to ensure major energy and mining projects aren’t jeopardized by unnecessary delays, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver says. The federal government has already moved to streamline the environmental review process, but Mr. Oliver said more will be done to eliminate inefficiencies, exempt small projects from review and eventually work out deals with provinces to provide a ‘one project, one review’ approach. …He wouldn’t say whether the government is planning new legislation, though the House of Commons environment committee is reviewing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) and is expected to propose amendments.”

“(The natural resources minister) points to the lengthy and highly politicized U.S. State Department review of TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL as an object lesson in what to avoid, while industry officials raise concerns that Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway pipeline may face similar delays. …Energy and mining executives have complained loudly in recent years that the environmental review process is too cumbersome and time consuming, adding costly delays which drive up the price for capital-intensive projects. …Mr. Oliver said the Gateway project is critical to Canada’s plans to fully develop the oil sands – with all the economic spinoffs that would entail – but added he will respect the regulatory process now under way. Eventually, the joint panel will report to the government and it will be up to cabinet to decide on its recommendations.”

“In the past few years, Ottawa has taken several steps to speed up review, including the establishment of a Major Projects Management Office, which has cut the average review to 22 months from four years. The government has also designated the National Energy Board, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board as the lead agencies for environmental reviews that affect companies reporting to them.”

“Critics say the government is gutting the environmental assessment system to ensure ecological concerns don’t get in the way of industry’s development plans. …Green Party Leader Elizabeth May doesn’t trust the government to merely eliminate duplication and overlap, saying the Conservatives are intent on gutting environmental review. ‘They want a rubber stamp,’ Ms. May said. ‘What they want to do is run roughshod over the environment, period … They do not want environmental consideration of anything to get in the way [of resource development].'”

In mid-July Postmedia News reported that, “The federal government will slash funding to the environmental agency that evaluates potentially harmful policies and projects before they get the green light. …The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is looking at a 43.1 per cent cut in spending, dropping from $30 million in 2011-12 to $17.1 million in 2012-13, according to the agency’s planning documents. This cut follows a 6.9 per cent, or $2.2-million, drop in the funds government allocated to the agency in 2010-11. Along with the budget cuts, the 17-year-old agency is facing a one-third reduction in the number of full-time staff…”