What Responsible Resource Development means for environmental protection
There is currently no direct enforcement mechanism in place under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to ensure major economic projects, such as energy and mining projects, comply with mitigation measures required by environmental assessments. These mitigation measures are necessary to protect the environment.
In the federal government, accountability for environmental assessments rests with many different departments and agencies, with each organization having its own mandate, processes, information needs and timelines. This creates confusion, delay, and duplication.
In addition, energy, time and taxpayer dollars are wasted, as resources are spread thin covering too many small routine projects, with little risk to the environment, at the expense of reviewing major projects that have the potential to affect the environment. Among the many examples are a maple syrup operation, the construction of a building to wash blueberries, and the need to replace a culvert.
Responsible Resource Development will ensure resources are allocated and focused where they can do the most good, that is, on those major projects that may actually pose a risk to the environment. It will also assure public participation and involvement, accountability for decisions, as well as stronger environmental enforcement and compliance tools. Through improved environmental protection,
The following are among the many measures Responsible Resource Development proposes in order to strengthen environmental protection:
- Focusing environmental assessments on major projects that have greater potential for significant adverse environmental effects, which would include participation by public directly affected;
- Ensuring that smaller, more routine projects will still be subject to federal and provincial laws, standards and permits, where applicable;
- For the first time, introducing 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 may face tough financial penalties. The proposed penalties could range from $100,000 to $400,000;
- Requiring follow-up programs after all environmental assessments to verify the accuracy of predictions regarding potential environmental effects and to determine if mitigation measures are working as intended;
- For the first time, providing federal inspectors with authority to examine whether or not conditions set out in an environmental assessment decision statement are met;
- For the first time, authorizing 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. They will be designed to address small contraventions quickly so that larger issues do not arise in the future. The proposed penalties could range from $25,000 to a maximum of $100,000 for 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.
- As a safeguard, providing the Minister of the Environment authority to order an assessment for any project subject to federal jurisdiction;
- Consolidating responsibility for environmental assessments with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency for most projects, as well as the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the National Energy Board for projects within their mandates;
- Increasing the budget of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency so that it can conduct and complete high quality environmental assessments in a timely and predictable way;
- Providing $13.5 million over 2 years to improve pipeline safety across Canada by enabling the National Energy Board to increase the number of inspections for oil and gas pipelines by 50%, from about 100 to 150 per year and double, from 3 to 6, the number of annual comprehensive audits in order to identify safety issues before they occur;
- Providing funding of $35.7 million over 2 years to further strengthen Canada’s tanker safety regime, including ensuring appropriate legislative and regulatory frameworks related to oil spills and emergency preparedness and response.
- In certain confined Canadian waterways, tanker operators must take a marine pilot with local knowledge on board before entering a harbour or busy waterway, and in special circumstances, more stringent measures may be taken. This could, under certain circumstances, include requiring two pilots on board oil tankers, escort tugs, additional training standards, and navigational procedures, restrictions and routing measures;
- New regulations enhancing the tanker inspection regime by strengthening vessel inspection requirements;
- A review of handling process for oil products by an independent panel of international tanker safety experts;
- Improved navigational products, such as updated charts for shipping routes;
- In cooperation with provincial governments, allowing for greater use of regional environmental assessments to identify and address potential regional and cumulative effects, particularly in areas experiencing large-scale developments;
- Making the conditions of Fisheries Act permits enforceable. This means proponents will have to comply with conditions set out in the authorizations or face penalties; and
- Improving compliance and environmental protection by introducing enforceable conditions for permits under the Species at Risk Act. This means that project proponents may face financial penalties if they fail to comply with those conditions.
These changes will ensure that time and expertise are used where they can make the most difference and do the most good.
The Government’s 2012 Economic Action Plan on Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity, presented in the House of Commons on March 29, 2012 committed to reforming the regulatory system in the resource sector in order to support responsible resource development. Though the government is streamlining the review process, it will continue to have a rigorous environmental review process that ensures responsible resource development in the years ahead.