The federal government has recently proposed amendments to the Regulations Designating Physical Activities (RDPA) which are central to the operation of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. With the exception of individual projects designated by the Minister on a discretionary basis, only those projects which appear on the RDPA may be subject to federal environmental assessment.
The amendments will result in the addition of some projects to the RDPA. These additions include diamond mines, apatite mines, railway yards, international and interprovincial bridges and tunnels, bridges that cross the St. Lawrence Seaway, the first offshore exploratory wells in Exploration Licence areas and expansions to oil sands mines.
Unfortunately, the list of projects being removed from the RDPA is much larger. Those items that will no longer be subject to federal environmental assessment include:
- ground water extraction facilities,
- heavy oil and oil sands processing facilities,
- pipelines and electrical transmission lines not regulated by the NEB,
- potash mines and other industrial mineral mines (salt, graphite, gypsum, magnetite, limestone, clay, asbestos), and
- a variety of industrial facilities (pulp and paper mills, steel mills, metal smelters, leather tanneries, textile mills and facilities for the manufacture of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, pressure-treated wood, particle-board and plywood, chemical explosives, lead acid batteries and respirable mineral fibres).
It is disappointing that projects – including oil and gas seismic activities in marine areas, oilsands steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) projects and projects within national parks – suggested for inclusion in the RPDA in our previous comments do not form part of the draft regulations.
The federal government is seeking comments on the proposed amendments by May 20th. The proposed amendments, along with the process to submit comments, can be viewed here.
The federal government also has changes in store for environmental assessment in Nunavut. Currently, the environmental assessment process in Nunavut is conducted by the Nunavut Impact Review Board established under Articles 10 and 12 of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.
With Bill C-47, the federal government intends to enact the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act. This act is intended to confirm the establishment of the Nunavut Impact Review Board (and also the Nunavut Planning Commission) and to describe the processes under which these bodies will operate. As well, the act is intended to establish a more streamlined process for environmental assessments and land-use approvals in Nunavut.
Currently, Bill C-47 has passed through the House of Commons and is working its way through the Senate. The status and text of Bill C-47 can be accessed on the LEGISinfo website.