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NEWS: No federal environmental assessment on the Melancthon quarry

Simcoe.com reports, “(This past September), Canada’s Environment Minister, Peter Kent said the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency had discussed the (Melancthon quarry) project with other federal departments, and decided not to act on an environmental assessment.” Kent stated, “The agency has determined that there are no federal decisions being contemplated in relation to the project that would cause a federal environmental assessment to be required. Should new relevant information regarding the project come forward, the agency will review it to determine if the Act applies.”

“Recently, (Dufferin-Caledon) Conservative MP David Tilson, who has already called on the federal government to subject The Highland Companies’ quarry plans in Melancthon to a federal environmental assessment, formally asked the Tories to explain why his request hasn’t been pursued. …To that end, Tilson placed his question on an Order Paper, a parliamentary procedure where MPs can ask a written question of the government, in an attempt to gain more details. Tilson also asked which departments the Minister of the Environment and Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has been in contact with, and if the federal government has touched base with the province of Ontario or The Highland Companies.”

“The federal government has 45 days to respond to Tilson’s request.” This means that the government must respond prior to January 15, 2012.

A media release from Tilson’s office dated September 6 states, “In light of the decision last week by Ontario Environment Minister John Wilkinson to order a full provincial environmental assessment of the proposed quarry, Mr. Tilson called upon Minister Kent to direct the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to conduct a joint environmental assessment in conjunction with the province. …Under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s operational policies, it is incumbent on federal authorities to conduct a joint environmental assessment with the provinces. In cases where ‘high levels of public concern’ are present, the CEAA is required to proceed in a cooperative manner with provincial authorities.”

Yesterday, the Globe and Mail reported, “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.” 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…”