Federal government posts proposed revisions to regulations under CEAA 2012

April 17th, 2013 by Laura Bowman

Late Friday night, April 12, 2013, the federal government posted the latest revisions to the Regulations Designating Physical Activities under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.   These regulations determine which projects are potentially subject to a federal assessment under the new Act.

The existing regulations were put in force without any public consultations when CEAA 2012 was enacted in July 2012.  The regulations were based on the comprehensive study list regulations under the old version of CEAA which was repealed in mid-2012.

The amendments to the Regulations Designating Physical Activities proposed by the government at this time are limited.  Some projects are removed and others are clarified.   Diamond mines, apatite mines, railway yards, international and interprovincial bridges and tunnels and “the first offshore exploratory wells in exploration licence area” and expansions to oil sands mines would be added to the project list.  Just being on the project list no longer guarantees an assessment is required.

The proposed amendments also include some startling deletions.  This includes: ground water extraction facilities, heavy oil and oil sands processing facilities, pipelines and electrical transmission lines not regulated by the NEB, potash mines, industrial mineral mines (salt graphite, gypsum, magnetite, limestone, clay and asbestos) and industrial facilities such as pulp and paper mills, steel mills, metal smelters and facilities for the manufacture of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, pressure treated wood, and a range of other industrial facilities.  The entries for mine expansions would be modified to relate the size of the expansion to an increase in the area of disturbance rather than referring only to production capacity.

Of course these deletions and amendments follow the already sweeping amendments that were brought in through two federal omnibus bills last year that repealed the entire Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 1995 and all of the triggers for an assessment under that Act.  Since then, projects that were previously routinely assessed such as port authority projects (ports and airports), pulp and paper mills, mines, etc. no longer “triggered” an assessment under the new legislation.

Overall these amendments are disappointing.  Requests from environmental groups and the public for the inclusion of all offshore drilling and exploration as well as radioactive waste shipment went largely un‑heeded.  The proposed elimination of an assessment for apparently harmful activities is not clearly explained in the regulatory impact analysis statement.

The projects that would be de‑listed would not be subject to a provincial environmental assessment in all provinces.  Each province has its own legislation and, in Ontario, environmental assessment is not automatically required for any private sector projects.

What does this mean in real life?  It means that projects like the Porter airport expansion in downtown Toronto are likely to go without a formal federal environmental assessment.  Toronto of course is already seeing the effects of the existing amendments in the ludicrous process crafted by the National Energy Board for public comment on the Line 9 tar sands pipeline.  Expect lots of new proposals in your communities that were previously unthinkable, particularly in or near waterways.

The proposed amendments will be posted this Friday on the Canada Gazette for public comment until May 20, 2013.  If you want a federal assessment of a project in your community in the meantime, you will have to ask Minister Kent to designate it for you.  Hamilton already requested this for line 9, and was rebuked.

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