ORA has fully participated in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Process review and was very hopeful with this government’s promise to “rebuild public trust, protect the environment, advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and ensure good projects get built…” While there are some encouraging components, such as requiring the Minister and Cabinet to provide reasons for environmental approvals and creating a single agency to conduct assessments, it is extremely disappointing that the proposed Impact Assessment Act (IAA) further undermines credibility and trust as well as its ability to protect the environment. It is a very flawed process when after going through years of application review and examination of science-based evidence, that the Minister could make a purely political decision and prioritize economic considerations over meeting climate commitments – as it is doing now with the Trans Mountain Pipeline.
There is little in this Discussion Paper that would rebuild trust in the federal environmental assessment or project approvals process. This proposal would leave the National Energy Board (NEB) in charge of hearing reviews and project approvals, when it clearly has lost the confidence of the public, stakeholders and Indigenous peoples. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) and the National Energy Board Act (NEBA) have failed to serve the public interest in sustainability and environmental protection, and should therefore be repealed and replaced.
Upon being sworn in, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (the Minister) received a mandate letter from the Prime Minister to review the environmental assessment (EA) processes with objectives to restore public trust in EA; introduce new and fair processes; and get resources to market. In August of 2016, an Expert Panel (the Panel) was chosen to conduct this review, and ORA presented to the Panel on the 3rd of November 2016, in Sudbury, and submitted written comments, dated, 23 December 2016. Continue reading
Upon being sworn in, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (the Minister) received a mandate letter from the Prime Minister to review the environmental assessment (EA) processes with objectives to restore public trust in EA; introduce new and fair processes; and get resources to market. In August of 2016, an Expert Panel (the Panel) was chosen to conduct this review, and ORA presented to the Panel on the 3rd of November 2016, in Sudbury, and submitted written comments, dated, 23 December 2016.
The NEB has proven to be an industry friendly structure aiming to support and promote energy markets for the oil and gas and pipeline industry – yet the NEB is also charged with regulating, approving, monitoring and enforcing compliance of this same industry. ORA submits that this is a conflict of interest, and raises real questions about the independence and objectivity of the NEB, and just how well the environment and public safety is being protected. The federal government’s reliance upon tax revenues and the need for job creation from the energy industry has led to a significant lack of environmental rigor in its decision making.
The recent NEB ruling of reasonable apprehension of bias in favor of TransCanada, came as a result of the NEB panel’s inappropriate conduct in relation to their meeting with Jean Charest while he was acting as an advisor to TransCanada. This conduct only came to light through a Freedom of Information Application. Confidence in energy projects can only come when we have an open, transparent and accountable government. Continue reading
The Chair of the Ontario Rivers Alliance presented to the Expert Panel on the Review of the Environmental Assessment Process, on Thursday, 3 November 2016, in Sudbury, and also made a detailed written submission below:
Our experience in Ontario is that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans defer to the will of the provincial regulators, which should be the other way around. We need our federal government to set a high standard that will be followed by the provincial players. Both the federal and provincial governments have gone through an intensive streamlining process which has undermined confidence in their ability to effectively review applications and Environmental Reports, let alone adequately monitor and enforce the conditions of approvals. Consequently, environmental protections have become very lacking in these streamlined and broken processes.
The Ontario Rivers Alliance has provided comments on the draft Terms of Reference for the Expert Panel that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (Minister) will establish to review the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA).
ORA is particularly concerned that when the new CEAA came into force in 2012, it resulted in the termination of most ongoing screening assessments for waterpower projects. It is essential that the CEAA require environmental assessment for all waterpower projects, as both large and small waterpower projects can and do result in numerous negative environmental and socio-economic impacts. Additionally, in Ontario there is no requirement for fish passage or up-front dam decommissioning provisions. These and other considerations are crucial if Canadian lakes and rivers are to remain resilient to a warming climate.
ORA submits that this project could facilitate expansion of the tar sands, and increase Canada’s carbon pollution. We need an environmental assessment to look at this project’s effect on climate change, as well as the impacts on the potential for increased spills throughout the country.
The tragedy of Lac-Mégantic, Gogama, and other explosive derailments across North America show the risks of moving oil by rail. We need an environmental assessment before we put any more oil trains on the tracks.
Did the support of 24 per cent of the electorate on election day give the federal government a mandate for its radical project to gut environmental protection? Apparently. In our apathy-inducing first-past-the-post political system a small minority can translate into a big majority, which can disregard public opinion and do whatever it wants.
Here is a list of what the feds have accomplished so far in their three-pronged environmental strategy of deregulation, cutting information and research and targeting dissenting voices:
- Eliminated Canada’s international commitment to mitigate climate change, including the repeal of the 2007 Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act.
- Undermined global climate negotiations to avoid climate action.
- Failed to create a plan to address climate change.
- Eliminated energy conservation and efficiency and renewable energy funding while continuing subsidies to fossil fuels.
- Eliminated funding for the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences.
- Eliminated the climate adaptation research group within Environment Canada.
- Eliminated scientists in Natural Resources Canada to study ice core data.
- Cut hundreds of millions of dollars from Environment Canada.
- Repealed the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, weakening the federal environmental assessment process.
- Eliminated accepted criteria for compulsory environmental assessments, leaving such reviews to the discretion of the Minister of the Environment and political appointees.
- Eliminated the jobs of hundreds of scientists working for various government departments that focus on the environment and wildlife.
- Weakened elements of the Species at Risk Act.
- Amended the Species at Risk Act and Navigable Waters Protection Act to allow the National Energy Board to assume jurisdiction of endangered species or navigable waters in the way of any pipeline.
- Allowing the federal cabinet, rather than the National Energy Board, to make decisions about approvals for major pipeline projects.
- Introduced cuts to ozone monitoring.
- Ended monitoring of smoke stack emissions.
- Eliminated the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission.
- Weakened the Fisheries Act in the areas of habitat protection and eliminated the marine contaminants program.
- Fired all DFO habitat officers in British Columbia.
- Killed the Navigable Waters Protection Act, replacing it with the Navigation Protection Act, which effectively makes major pipeline and interprovincial power line projects exempt from requirements for proponents to prove they wouldn’t damage navigable waterways.
- Reduced federal protection of waterways to a small number of water bodies and rivers.
- Parks Canada no longer has to conduct periodic environmental audits or management plan reviews.
- Eliminated funding for the National Round Table on the Economy and the Environment.
- Eliminated support for the Experimental Lakes Program.
- Eliminated funding for a dozen Arctic science research stations. Closed the Polar Arctic and Environmental Laboratory and the Yukon Research Lab.
- Started privatization and eliminated ecological staff positions in National Parks.
- Made a systemic effort to cut research, information and analysis with respect to environmental issues.
- Attacked environmental and First Nations organizations for critiquing resource development.
- Provided the Canada Revenue Agency with an extra $8 million to crack down on environmental charities.
- Provided oil companies with unprecedented access to senior government leaders.
- Muzzled government scientists who have been conducting research on various climate and environmental issues.
- Cut funding to the Network on Women’s Health and the Environment.
- Cut funding of the Canadian Environmental Network.
- In addition to changing the definition of “aboriginal fishery” in the Fisheries Act, without consulting First Nations governments introduced changes to the Indian Act designed to make it faster and easier for First Nations to “take advantage of economic opportunities” by leasing designated reserve lands based on a majority of votes from those in attendance at a meeting or in a referendum, instead of waiting for a majority vote from all eligible voters.
- Gave the aboriginal affairs minister the authority to call a band meeting or referendum for the purpose of considering a surrender of the band’s territory.
- The minister can accept or refuse the land designation after receiving a resolution from the band council.
- Eliminated the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration, the Indian Head Tree Nursery and the PFRA pasture management program on millions of acres of sensitive grasslands.
- Provided unprecedented support to industries to exploit natural resources with minimal environmental oversight.