Canada’s federal government has offered details of its plan to streamline regulation of natural resource development, a move welcomed by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers when announced with the proposed budget last month (OGJ Online, Mar. 30, 2012).
Joe Oliver, minister of natural resources, described the initiative in a speech in Toronto. He said the government will:
• Move toward a “one project, one review” system for reviews of major projects by recognizing provincial processes as substitutes or equivalents to federal ones as long as they meet the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
• Ensure decisions by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency on whether a federal environmental assessment is required are made within 45 days, earlier than is the case now.
• Set timelines for hearings and assessments at 24 months for panel reviews, 18 months for National Energy Board hearings, and 12 months for standard environmental assessments.
• Set legally binding timelines for key regulatory permitting processes, including the Fisheries Act, the Species at Risk Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.
• Consolidate the number of organizations responsible for reviews from more than 40 to 3—the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, National Energy Board, and Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
• Focus federal assessment efforts on major projects that can have “significant” environmental effects.
• Introduce enforceable environmental assessment decision statements under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. This means proponents of major projects will have to comply with conditions set out in the decision statements or face tough financial penalties. The proposed penalties could range from $100,000 to $400,000.
• Require follow-up programs after all environmental assessments to verify accuracy of the predictions about potential environmental effects and to determine if mitigation measures are working as intended.
• For the first time, provide federal inspectors with the authority to examine whether or not conditions of a decision statement are met.
• For the first time, authorize the use of administrative monetary penalties for violations of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, and the National Energy Board Act. These penalties will be designed to address small contraventions quickly so larger issues do not arise later. The proposed penalties could range from $25,000 to a maximum of $100,000 for violations of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the National Energy Board Act, while the range of penalties under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act will be established through regulations.
• Provide more than $35 million over 2 years for marine safety and $13.5 million over 2 years to strengthen pipeline safety, including regulations to strengthen the tanker safety regime and increasing the number of oil and gas pipeline inspections each year to 150 from 100 inspections.