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Thursday, Oct 24, 2019

Overview of changes to Canada’s environmental legislation

Environmental Legislation

Recent media coverage has focused on Bill C-69, which enacts the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, along with Bill C-48, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act

Another tabled piece of legislation that received less attention was Bill C-68, which amends the Fisheries Act. All three bills received royal accent in June 2019, amending the Canadian Navigable Water Act (formerly the Navigation Protection Act), the Impact Assessment Act (formerly the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA)), and the Fisheries Act

Additional regulations will come into effect, as required. The new Acts will affect Associated and our work with our clients, including energy projects, projects involving water or waterbodies, and work in National Parks.

Environmental Legislation

While the list of designated projects is similar, thresholds and activities do vary in places. Noteworthy changes to the Impact Assessment Act include: increased regulation in National Parks; modified environmental review process on federal lands; increased regulation of energy, including renewable energy; and increased water management regulations.

The assessment process must now consider both positive and negative consequences on economic, environment, social, health, and public interest decision factors, as well as directly related alternatives (where technically and economically feasible). Other factors considered in the process include traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples and impacts on Indigenous rights; the Government of Canada’s ability to meet its environmental obligations and its commitments with respect to climate change; and any study or plan that is in respect of a region related to the project.

Environmental Legislation

For the Fisheries Act, key changes include a return to HADD (harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat); broader definition of fish; increase in the types of watercourses regulated; development of Codes of Practice (CoP) and standards; designated projects list; and a Public Registry. 

As consultants, we will consider changes to these environmental legislation in our project planning process

In the short term, existing approvals may no longer be valid; check with your environmental team. Also, self-assessment criteria (permit exclusions) are no longer valid. Currently, almost all projects with work in/near water will require a request for review, though additional CoP’s are expected in the future. Lastly, more projects may require authorizations.

For the Canadian Navigable Waters Act, some of the changes include: all projects on navigable waterbodies, scheduled or not, will require a Public Notice. Major works, including bridges, or maintenance with temporary works for over 30 days require approval, even on non-scheduled waterways. Finally, approvals for Scheduled waterways effectively stay the same. 

Changes to environmental legislation could affect projects which include water or waterbodies, works in National Parks, or energy projects

For more information, please contact Richard Simpson at simpsonr@ae.ca.

  • Author: Richard Simpson, M.Sc., RPF
  • Categories: ViewPoints