Senate changes to environmental assessment bill are worse than Harper-era legislation: experts

©Garth Lenz --1618
Tailings for Imperial Metals’ Red Chris Mine perch above a B.C. lake. Proposed new rules for reviewing major projects like mines and pipelines have been majorly revised by the Senate. Photo: Garth Lenz / The Narwhal

Following intensive lobbying by the oil and gas industry, the unelected Canadian Senate has approved more than 180 controversial amendments to Bill C-69. Experts describe the amendments as incoherent, badly drafted and an attempt to dodge climate change considerations

Jason Kenney travelled to Ottawa only days after he was sworn in, telling members of the Senate’s energy committee that Bill C-69 was the “culmination of a full-frontal attack” on Alberta’s economic prosperity.

But the Senate’s surgery is so extreme, with many of its wide-ranging amendments mirroring requests from the oil and gas industry, some verbatim, that environmental law experts say Canada would be better off leaving the Harper-era environmental assessment legislation in place.

Following a report from an expert panel that travelled across the country, hearing from stakeholders in 21 cities, federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna introduced Bill C-69 in February 2018, saying the new legislation would ensure “more timely and predictable project reviews” that would attract investment and development.

The 340-page bill replaces the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency with the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada. The bill also makes changes to the Navigable Waters Act and overhauls the beleaguered National Energy Board, replacing it with a Canadian Energy Regulator.

The new impact assessment agency would review all major projects in the country, assessing not just the environmental impacts but also the social, economic and health impacts, as well as the effects on Indigenous peoples.

The bill establishes timelines for assessments and requires that impacts on Indigenous rights and culture be considered early on in the planning process. MORE

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Senate Playing With Fire on Environmental Bills

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