As we previously reported, on July 12, 2010, broad amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (the “Act”) were passed as part of Bill C-9, also known as the Jobs and Economic Growth Act.

Included in the amendments were provisions for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (“CEAA”) to assume responsibility for performing comprehensive studies of major projects, except where the projects are regulated by the National Energy Board (“NEB”) and Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (“CNSC”).

For pipeline and power line projects within the jurisdiction of the NEB and nuclear facilities within the jurisdiction of the CNSC, the CEAA will use Section 43 of the Act to allow the environmental assessment (“EA”)review procedures of the NEB and CNSC to substitute for the EA review that would normally be conducted by a CEAA Panel.

The CEAA has released separate draft Memoranda of Understanding (“MOU”) between the CEAA and the NEB, and between the CEAA and the CNSC, to outline the processes whereby the NEB and CNSC can request the Minister of the Environment to allow the NEB and CNSC to perform their own public hearings and licensing reviews.

The NEB and CNSC will create their own Panels to conduct the EA comprehensive studies. The Panels will be composed of persons who are unbiased and free from any conflict of interest relative to the major project, and who have knowledge or experience relevant to the anticipated environmental effects of the major project.

On completion of the assessment, the NEB and CNSC will submit reports to the Minister of Environment setting out the Panels’ conclusions and findings, including recommendations related to any mitigation measures and follow-up programs that should be implemented with respect to the major project, and a summary of the comments received from the public and Aboriginal peoples.

Public comments on the draft MOUs will be accepted by the CEAA until October 20, 2010. Visit the CEAA website for more information.