The BC Environmental Assessment Office (BC EAO) and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) announced today that they have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (the "MOU") on the substitution of environmental assessments for single projects and for classes of designated projects, and the coordination of Aboriginal consultation. Substitution means the substitution of the provincial process for the federal process while still requiring two separate decisions by the BC Minister of Environment and the Federal Minister of Environment on the significance of the environmental effects of the project and the adequacy of Aboriginal consultation. It does not involve the implemetation of an equivalent process.
The MOU establishes the timing and process for determining whether substitution is suitable for a project, procedures for delegating Aboriginal consultation, and the requirements for substitution. The process is initiated by the BC EAO on written notice to First Nations, the public and stakeholders, of it decision to request approval from the Federal Minister for substitution pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. Next, the BC EAO contacts the Federal Minister of Environment (Canada) to request substitution for an environmental assessment pursuant to the MOU. If approved, the BC EAO will conduct the environmental assessment and Aboriginal consutlation and prepare a report for consideration by the Federal Minister of Environment (Canada) and the BC Minister of Environment. If the project is not approved for substitution, the Parties may discuss arrangements to conduct a cooperative assessment or joint review panel.
The primary purposes of the MOU are to provide for a more timely and efficient environmental assessment process and to avoid duplication and costs, often associated with cooperative and/or concurrent processes. The MOU came into effect on March 6, 2013 and there are already two projects approved for substitution: the Carbon Creek Coal Mine and Sukunka Coal projects.