Environmentalist group objects to finalized impact assessment regulations

Base Mine Lake with Syncrude’s Mildred Lake mine in the background north of Fort McMurray, Alta., on Thursday, September 13, 2018. (Codie McLachlan/Star Metro Edmonton)

The Trudeau government is wrong to exclude major industrial activities like the construction of new cement plants and in-situ oilsands projects from requiring federal review under new impact assessment legislation, an environmentalist group said Wednesday.

Environmental Defence says omitting these high-carbon activities from the so-called project list is not congruent with the Liberals’ commitment to fight climate change and ‘green’ the Canadian economy.

“We are dismayed that today’s new regulations leave high carbon projects off the list of what needs to undergo a federal impact assessment,” Julia Levin, climate and energy program manager with Environmental Defence, said in a statement.

“Exempting oil and gas projects from environmental review is like saying you’re going to study the environmental impacts of road vehicles and then giving a free pass to SUVs and transport trucks.”

READ MORE: Proposed impact assessment regulations draw ire of environmental groups

The project list, published earlier this month in the Canada Gazette, sets out the types of industrial and energy activities that must undergo review under the Liberals’ Impact Assessment Act, a major part of Bill C-69, which was passed against the wishes of the oil and gas industry and many Conservative politicians in June. MORE

Among the activities included in the list are oilsands mines and major nuclear and hydro projects.

Environmental groups first raised concerns in May when the draft project list and related regulations were submitted for public comment.

At the time, the West Coast Environmental Law Association also objected to the omission of a “trigger” that would mandate assessments based on a project’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmental Defence said a greenhouse gas trigger, absent as well in the final regulations, would have “ensured fairness in Canada’s plan to take an economy-wide approach” to reducing emissions by ensuring that any large carbon project, regardless of sector, would receive an assessment.

A spokesperson for Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said during public consultations, the government heard from Canadians that the project list should be maintained as is, without the threshold trigger.

“As such, we maintained an approach that indicates a project list, not a threshold list,” Sabrina Kim told iPolitics in a statement, noting that the Liberals are also proceeding with methane regulations, pricing carbon pollution, a clean fuel standard and phasing out coal by 2030, among other measures to reduce emissions.

Environmental Defence also argued that every class of project in the finalized regulations, including pipelines, mines, coal mines, nuclear reactors, highways, has seen the size thresholds to require review increased from previous rules. For example, coal mines have to be 60 per cent larger to warrant a review than previous regulations, according to Environmental Defence.

“The decisions we make today with regards to our energy infrastructure will have consequences for generations to come. The wrong decisions will lead to emissions being locked in for decades,” Levin warned.  MORE

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