Budget To Speed Up Approval of Resource Development Projects30-Mar-12
by Sean Parker
Budget To Speed Up Approval of Resource Development Projects
Budget 2012, released yesterday by the Federal Government, contains new proposals to speed up the regulatory process for reviewing and approving resource development projects in Canada. The goal is to create a timely and transparent regulatory system that encourages investment from the private sector. Streamlining the review process will focus on four main areas:
- improving timeliness and predictability;
- reducing duplication across federal and provincial governments;
- strengthening environmental protection; and
- improving Aboriginal consultations.
Budget 2012 is intended to speed up regulatory requirements by guaranteeing that Panel Reviews will be completed within 24 months, National Energy Board Hearings be completed within 18 months and standard federal Environmental Assessments be completed within 12 months. This is a welcome departure from the current regulatory regime under which environmental reviews for major projects may often exceed the stipulated time frames. When releasing the new budget, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said that growth in the Canadian economy will come from innovation and an “accelerated regulatory system”. A significant aspect of the proposed changes is that they will apply retroactively to projects already under review, such as the Northern Gateway pipeline. The changes will apply to projects requiring federal environmental approvals and may include, development of oilsands, conventional oil and gas resources, coal, hydroelectric facilities, mining and even forestry projects.
Some of the proposed changes are intended to improve consultations with Aboriginal peoples by better integrating consultations into the project review process. The changes will also create a designated federal lead for consultations and establish a coordinated federal-provincial process for consulting with Aboriginal groups.
The proposed changes are already receiving criticism from environmental organizations and other stakeholders. The full political and legal ramifications will play out in due course. Stay tuned for more updates on this developing topic.