On December 13, 2017, the Government of Québec published the Draft Regulation Respecting the Assessment and Review of the Environmental Impacts of Certain Projects (the "Proposed Regulations"), which will replace the Assessment Regulation. and the review of environmental impacts . This Draft Regulation is one of the key pieces of the implementation of the Act to amend the Environment Quality Act in order to modernize the environmental authorization system and amending other legislative provisions, in particular to reform governance. of the Green Fund ("Bill 102"), assented to March 23, 2017. The Proposed Regulations are expected to come into force on March 23, 2018, subject to any modifications that may be made during the consultation period ending February 11, 2018.

The Proposed Regulation proposes a number of changes to the existing Environmental Impact Assessment and Review regime, including an increase in public participation in the process, increased disclosure by project proponents, and an amendment to the list of targeted projects. provincial environmental assessment process, as well as the applicable thresholds for these projects.

Increase in public participation

The Draft Regulation introduces a new obligation for project proponents, namely the publication of an environmental assessment notice within 15 days of receipt of the directive concerning the completion of the impact study. Any person, group or municipality will then have 30 days to comment on the issues that the impact study should address. The Minister must send to the proponent, within 20 days of the end of this consultation period, comments on the issues of the project "whose relevance justifies the obligation to take them into account in the impact study" .

The proposed Regulations also provide for the introduction of a new public registry, the Environmental Assessment Registry, which, according to the legislator, is intended to provide the public with more complete information earlier in the process.

It should be noted that the Proposed Regulation proposes to reduce the public consultation period from 45 to 30 days, and to reduce the time allowed to the Minister to submit his recommendation to the government, ie 15 to 13 months. for projects that already have a time limit and 13 or 18 months, depending on the type of project, for projects that do not currently have a deadline.

In the list of new elements that a project proponent will have to include in his impact study, in addition to the issues raised by the public by the Minister, we can see the quantification of GHG emissions (greenhouse gases) attributable to the project. and the analysis of the risks and anticipated impacts of climate change on the project and on the components of the environment likely to be affected by this project. Finally, where the project is likely to affect wetlands and water features, proponents will be required to provide additional information and documentation related to their protection.

Activities subject to

With respect to the proposed changes to the list of activities to be subject to the impact assessment and review process, eligibility criteria for some projects will be more permissive under the proposed Regulations. Especially :

  • for the construction of dams or dikes, the threshold for the total area of ​​a reservoir or group of reservoirs will increase from 50,000 m 2 to 100,000 m 2 ;
  • for work in wet and moist environments, the threshold of subjection will be increased from 300 m to 500 m for work planned within the 2-year flood limit; and
  • the construction of pulp and paper mills will now be subject only to mills with a maximum annual production capacity of 40,000 metric tons or more.

However, the proposed Regulations will now be more stringent with respect to certain industries. Especially :

  • the subjection of guided or rail systems and subways, including related infrastructure;
  • the subjection of work related to the production and storage of hydrocarbons, as well as any oil or gas drilling in wet and hydric environments within the meaning of the Hydrocarbons Act ;
  • for ore processing, the production of rare earths, radioactive elements and uranium is planned, while clarifying the definitions of treatment and treatment plant; and
  • the reduction in the threshold of 100,000 to 50,000 tonnes per year for chemical production plants.

We also note the addition of any project whose projected emissions during the operating phase are 100,000 metric tons or more of greenhouse gas equivalent CO 2 .

One of the major changes proposed by the proposed Regulations is the imposition of increases in the production capacity of existing projects. For example, any increase in the daily production capacity of a plant subject to the potential by-law will be subject to the impact assessment and review process when the increase exceeds a defined threshold, ranging from 10% to 50% depending on the type of activity targeted, regardless of whether or not this increase results in an increase in the project footprint.

It will be important to monitor the final version of this Draft Regulation and other draft regulations to be published shortly under Bill 102, before their formal coming into force on March 23, 2018. For more information on this topic, please contact: invite you to contact one of our team members.