Industry sectors will have different perspectives on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) and on CEAA 2012 depending on the circumstances of each industry and project, but all should be aware of some of the major changes in this legislative update.

The new legislation:

  • Provides an entirely new approach to federal environmental assessment;
  • Reduces the number of federal project EAs;
  • Includes two EA tracks;
  • Is project based – there is no more self assessment;
  • Limits responsible authorities to three federally;
  • Has replaced harmonization with substitution; and
  • Includes a time line for all federal EAs.  

Despite these changes, parts of the legislation make environmental assessment less clear than before. For example, the legislation is hazy with respect to the criteria, frequency, and basis for panel referrals. Similarly, it does not explain how the new rules mesh with the timing and complexity of associated regulations. And in terms of the federal duty to consult with Aboriginal Groups in substituted/equivalent processes, there is little description of how such consultations should occur or with whom.  

CEAA 2012 does bring clarity with respect to when an assessment is needed thanks to the Designated Projects List. This identifies the classes of projects and their respective Regulatory Authority. Federal decisions, such as Fisheries Act authorizations, no longer trigger an assessment, but they do affect the scope of an assessment. Any projects not on the Designated Projects List will not require assessment unless the Minister decides an EA is required.