environmental assessment

Three Gaping Holes in Trudeau’s Attempt to Fix Canada’s Environmental Laws

Justin Trudeau London Ontario Town Hall

This piece originally appeard on Policy Options.

Windows of opportunity for transformative change are rare and can close suddenly.

The saga of Bill C-69 is a case in point.

Is Trudeau Quietly Turning His Back On Fixing Canada’s Environmental Laws?

Justin Trudeau Environmental Reform DeSmog Canada

Scientists and environmental groups breathed a sigh of relief when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau quickly followed through on a campaign promise to modernize Canada’s environmental laws.

Within a year of being elected, the Liberals initiated four parallel reviews of key environmental legislation weakened or eliminated under former prime minister Stephen Harper.

But now, as that review process is coming to a close, experts are back to holding their breath.

Canada On Precipice of ‘Huge Step Forward’ For Environmental Assessments

Justin Trudeau Catherine McKenna EA Review

Hope may finally be in sight for fixing Canada’s environmental assessment process, after a four-member expert panel released a promising report on the heels of consultations in 21 cities across the country.

Historically, the focus of Canada’s environmental assessment has been on “avoiding harm” and “significant adverse impacts” associated with new projects, but the new approach recommended by the panel would shift the focus to a “net contribution to sustainability,” said Anna Johnston, staff counsel at West Coast Environmental Law.

The recommendations that the panel has made address a number of the concerns that were raised by the scientific community,” said Aerin Jacob, conservation scientist for the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. “I was pleasantly surprised.”

A Surprisingly Simple Solution to Canada’s Stalled Energy Debate

If you feel exhausted by Canada’s fevered debates about oil pipelines, liquefied natural gas terminals, renewable energy projects and mines, there just might be relief in sight.

Right now, the federal government is reviewing its environmental assessment (EA) process. Yes, it’s reviewing its reviews. And while that might sound kinda boring, it could actually revolutionize the way Canada makes decisions about energy projects.

My highest hope is that Canada will take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity … and take a really visionary approach to environmental assessment,” said Anna Johnston, staff counsel at West Coast Environmental Law.

That could include implementing something called “strategic environmental assessment,” which creates a forum for the larger discussions about things like oil exports, LNG development or all mining in an area.

So instead of the current environmental assessment process, in which pipeline reviews have become proxy battles for issues such as climate change and cumulative effects, there’d actually be a higher-level review designed specifically to examine those big-picture questions. 

New Research Finds Salmon Reside, Feed in Flora Bank Estuary, Site of Pacific Northwest LNG Terminal

Gaps in basic knowledge about salmon in the estuary near Flora Bank call into question the review — and approval — of the Pacific Northwest LNG terminal proposed for the mouth of the Skeena River, according to new research from fisheries biologist Jonathan Moore.

Data published Wednesday in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series shows salmon species don’t merely transit through the Skeena River estuary, as advanced by Pacific Northwest LNG in its environmental assessment, but can linger in the unique estuary environment for much longer periods of time than previously thought.

Tweet: ‘Young salmon in the #FloraBank estuary are rearing from days to weeks & some individuals for months’ http://bit.ly/2fEqSSs #PNWLNGThe young salmon in the Flora Bank estuary are rearing from days to weeks and some individuals for months,” Moore told DeSmog Canada.

In its environmental assessment Pacific Northwest LNG stated young salmon were moving through the estuary. Our data states that’s not true; the salmon are residing in the area.”

BC Hydro Missed Rare and Vulnerable Species During Site C Environmental Assessment, New Research Shows

Scientists have discovered rare and notable species in the Site C dam flood zone that were missed in BC Hydro’s environmental assessment of the $8.8 billion project, including spider and true bug species new to Canada and bumblebee and snail species vulnerable to extinction.

The findings underscore the rich biodiversity of the Peace River Valley, a northern low-elevation valley that remains “poorly known biologically in British Columbia,” said David Langor, president of the Biological Survey of Canada, a non-profit organization that coordinates scientific research.

If we were to have a more intensive sampling I’m quite sure that we would come up with quite a pile of other things that are interesting, unique and outside of normal ranges, and perhaps even species that are new to science,” Langor, an Edmonton-based biologist, told DeSmog Canada.

Feds Appoint Chair of B.C. Industry Group to Panel Reviewing Environmental Assessment Process

The federal government has appointed the founding chair of a vocal B.C.-based industry advocacy group to a four-member panel tasked with reviewing Canada’s environmental assessment process.*

The panel is part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s attempt to make good on his campaign promise to restore credibility to environmental reviews of major energy projects — but the appointment calls into question the credibility of the panel. 

Tweet: New EA review panel member leads an industry advocacy group w close ties to @BCLiberals http://bit.ly/2cH6u5H #bcpoliThe appointee, Doug Horswill, is the founding chair of Resource Works, an industry advocacy group with close ties to the BC Liberals that aggressively advocates for the interests of extractive industries in B.C.

Why Trudeau Should Call Off the Reviews of Trans Mountain and Energy East

The National Energy Board is fundamentally broken.

That was a point repeatedly highlighted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the 2015 federal election — and one confirmed for many with recent revelations that former Quebec premier Jean Charest had privately met with senior NEB officials while on the payroll of TransCanada.

Trudeau and his federal cabinet have the chance to change that: in June, the government announced dual review panels to assess the mandates and operations of the NEB and the country’s oft-criticized post-2012 environmental assessment processes (it also announced five interim principles until those reviews are completed, including a requirement to assess upstream greenhouse gas emissions although it’s unclear how that information is being used).

10 Reasons Ottawa Should Rebuild Our Environmental Assessment Law from Scratch

By Chris Tollefson for IRPP.

The Trudeau government has recently announced a sweeping review process that could culminate in what has been described as “the most fundamental transformation of federal environmental law in a generation.” This review, among other things, will determine the fate of the controversial law that governs federal environmental assessments, known as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA, 2012).

Ironically, CEAA, 2012, a statute that the Harper government radically revamped to be industry-friendly, nowadays has very few friends. Even key industry insiders admit that the legislation, aimed primarily at expediting the approval of major new resource development projects, has been a spectacular failure. Not only are many major environment assessments (EAs) that are underway under CEAA, 2012 stalled, mired in controversy, tied up in litigation (or all of the above), but more importantly, Canadians have lost trust in the way we assess and make decisions about these projects.

Tweet: Can the #Enviro Assessment Act be renovated, or is it a tear-down? 10 good reasons to believe the latter: http://bit.ly/29HSgR5 #cdnpoliCan CEAA, 2012 be renovated, or is it a tear-down? There are at least ten good reasons to believe the latter.

Liberals’ Interim Pipeline Measures Fall Short

This is a guest post by Ecojustice National Program Director Barry Robinson and staff lawyers Charles Hatt and Karen Campbell. It originally appeared on the Ecojustice website.

The Harper government’s 2012 environmental law rollbacks were a blunt-force trauma to the environmental assessment of pipelines. And last week, the new federal Liberal government prescribed band-aids for an ailing patient that needed more.

On January 27, the federal government announced interim measures for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion Project Review process and the upcoming TransCanada Energy East Pipeline Project Review process. These measures are a welcome first step, but unfortunately still fall short of what is required to restore public faith in National Energy Board (NEB) reviews and environmental assessments in Canada.

The interim measures are part of the Liberal government’s mandate to “regain public trust” and deal with the broken process left behind by the Harper government’s repeal and replacement of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and amendments to the National Energy Board Act. These efforts to fast track approvals for proposed pipeline projects backfired and have brought public confidence in project reviews to an all-time low. Public trust in these reviews is so diminished that communities from coast to coast — Burnaby, Kenora, Montreal and Saint John, to name a few — have organized against proposed projects and regulators. This is unprecedented.

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