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Framework for Federal Environmental Assessments Comes Into Force


by Steven Dollansky

The centerpiece of the Federal Government’s new framework for environmental assessments, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (“CEAA, 2012”) came into force on July 6, 2012 by order of the federal cabinet. This legislation replaces the previous Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (the “previous Act”) which had been in force since 1994.

This legislation introduces major changes designed to streamline the regulatory process to allow for natural resources to be developed in a responsible and timely way. CEAA, 2012 eliminates the potential for multiple assessments by various federal authorities, establishes time limits within which assessments must be completed, and creates more severe enforcement mechanisms. For a more detailed analysis of CEAA, 2012, click here to review our April alert on the topic.

Under CEAA, 2012¸ the Government of Canada has introduced three new regulations (the “Regulations”) which will serve as the operational guidelines for the new legislation: 

Much of the substantive content remains the same as before. For example, the designated activities subject to assessment under CEAA, 2012 are the same as the projects subject to assessment by comprehensive study in the former Act, with the exception of three entries that applied only to projects in or on national parks, park reserves, or historic sites. Following from this, all projects that did not qualify for comprehensive assessment under the former Act will not be subject to federal environmental assessment.

In addition to CEAA, 2012 and its associated Regulations, several amendments to the National Energy Board Act (“NEB Act”) were brought in to force on July 6, 2012. The amendments to the NEB Act transfer to the federal cabinet the responsibility to make a decision on whether, and on what terms and conditions, a certificate in respect to a pipeline is awarded. Moreover, the amendments give the federal cabinet the ability to provide the Chairperson of the Board with the authority to grant directives that alter the timeline for review.

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