Sweeping Reforms to Environmental Assessments in Canada Become Law

On 21 June, Bill C-69, legislation that proposed sweeping reforms to federal regulatory regimes concerning the environment assessment of major projects in Canada, received Royal Assent and became law.

Among other things, Bill C-69 has replaced the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, with an Impact Assessment Act, replaced the National Energy Board Act with a Canadian Energy Regulator Act, and made changes to the Navigation Protection Act. In passing Bill C-69, the Federal Government accepted 62 amendments proposed by the senate and further amended or rejected the balance of the senate's proposed amendments.

Senate amendments that were accepted by the federal government include

  • Establishing that one of the goals of project assessments is to ensure economic development
  • Shifting control from the minister of the environment to the new Impact Assessment Agency over key decisions (e.g., setting and extending deadlines, deciding when prescribed activities have been completed, identifying when additional information is required)
  • Granting certain powers to the Impact Assessment Agency in determining what constitutes "meaningful" public participation in the circumstances

Impacts for Resource Development in Canada

Bill C-69 represents a major shift in how federal decisions are made about major resource development projects in Canada. While Bill C-69 increases environmental and stakeholder engagement requirements, there are concerns from industry that Bill C-69 could also increase regulatory uncertainty, despite amendments. This cannot be fully assessed unless and until major projects go through the new Impact Assessment Act process. In the meantime, the Impact Assessment Agency will be charged with developing processes to efficiently satisfy Bill C-69.

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