CEAA - Faster, Easier...Better?21-Mar-12
by Michael Barbero
Standing Committee Releases Report on CEAA
On March 13, 2012, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development released its report on the Canadian Environment Assessment Act (CEAA). The report recognized the need for change to the CEAA processes and outcomes. Given the current political climate for regulatory reform, it is almost certain that the recommendations of the committee will be enacted prior to the next federal election.
The Committee identified four key areas in which to improve efficiencies in the CEAA process: improvements to timelines, decreased duplication, effective aboriginal consultation and enhanced public participation.
Among some of the specific reforms recommended were the creation of a single federal agency to address and coordinate all Environmental Assessments (EA), the removal of unnecessary steps in the process, the creation of legislative timelines in which federal EA are to be completed, as well as earlier triggering of EA. Noting the concerns of numerous aboriginal communities and industry, the Committee also recommended that aboriginal consultations be given greater effect by ensuring that EA focus on effectively and efficiently consulting aboriginal groups.
The Committee noted that greater reliance should be placed on follow-up programs to gauge success and best practices. At the same time, the Committee identified a clear desire to shift the focus of EA from "negative outcomes", to a process which considers both negative and positive environmental effects.
As noted, given the federal government’s express commitment to regulatory reform, it is likely that these changes will take effect before the next federal election. However, it would be unwise for industry and participants to make drastic changes to their approach when engaged in EA. The Standing Committee’s report represents high level recommendations which need further consideration and refinement. Moreover, some of the proposed changes require alteration to existing federal legislation, a process which may slow any changes to the CEAA.
For the time being industry and participants should stay closely tuned for the next phase of CEAA reform.