Federal Conservatives have often signalled their reservations about environmental assessment and approvals, and their impact on slowing favoured projects. They already suspended much federal EA for infrastructure stimulus projects. Now the federal Speech from the Throne and the Budget show they will do something similar for resource development:
According to the Speech:
To support responsible development of Canada’s energy and mineral resources, our Government will untangle the daunting maze of regulations that needlessly complicates project approvals, replacing it with simpler, clearer processes that offer improved environmental protection and greater certainty to industry…
Our Government will reform the northern regulatory regime to ensure that the region’s resource potential can be developed where commercially viable while ensuring a better process for protecting our environment.
The lengthy time frames and higher costs to comply with the Municipal Class EA process are not providing additional environmental or other benefits.
The first concrete proof of the change came in yesterday’s budget. Approvals of major energy projects will no longer be controlled by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency:
The Government is taking steps in Budget 2010 to further improve the regulatory review process for large energy projects. Responsibility for conducting environmental assessments for energy projects will be delegated from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for projects falling under their respective areas of expertise. Participant funding programs will be established by each agency to ensure the timely and meaningful engagement of the public, stakeholders and Aboriginal peoples in the review of major energy projects.
This change will greatly reduce the potential for environmental assessment to block new energy projects, such as new nuclear, oil sands, or pipelines.
The only other reference to the environment, in the Speech, was an offsetting promise that follows existing Conservative priorities:
our Government will bolster its Action Plan on Clean Water. And it will build on the creation of more than 85,000 square kilometres of national parks and marine conservation areas as part of its national conservation plan.