Ministry of Environment, Environment Sector, Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Region, Kootenay Rockies Region, Northern B.C. Region, Provincewide, Thompson / Okanagan Region, Vancouver Coast & Mountains Region, Vancouver Island / Coast Region

B.C. and Canada take next step in One Project, One Environmental Assessment

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Environment Friday, March 15, 2013 2:00 PM


VICTORIA - The British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding on the Substitution of Environmental Assessments with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

Under the memorandum, the Environmental Assessment Office will conduct the environmental assessment for specific projects, including the procedural aspects of Aboriginal consultation. Federal departments will contribute their expertise. At the conclusion of the substituted environmental assessment, the respective federal and provincial ministers will reach separate decisions on the significance of the project's environmental effects and the adequacy of Aboriginal consultation, based on the environmental assessment report prepared by the Environmental Assessment Office.

"Successive governments in British Columbia have actively pursued the use of our environmental assessment process for the federal process within the province," Environment Minister Terry Lake said. "Both Canada and British Columbia have rigorous environmental assessment systems. The province's businesses and communities alike will benefit from the elimination of the duplication involved in having two assessments for a single project."

The Environmental Assessment Office has submitted requests to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to conduct substituted environmental assessments on behalf of the federal government for two proposed projects. The provincial environmental assessments will meet all federal and provincial requirements.

The proposed projects are the Carbon Creek coal mine located 40 kilometres west of Hudson's Hope and the Sukunka coal project located 55 kilometres south of Chetwynd. Both of the projects are subject to an environmental assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012) and B.C.'s Environmental Assessment Act.

"Substitution does not mean less rigorous assessment or consultation. In fact, a guiding principle of substitution is the protection of strong environmental assessment and Aboriginal consultation," Lake said. "Substitution allows the assessment process to be conducted more effectively and efficiently."

The environmental assessments for the Carbon Creek Coal Mine and Sukunka Coal projects would be the first substituted processes under both this memorandum of understanding and under CEAA 2012.

A copy of the MOU can be found at: http://www.eao.gov.bc.ca/pdf/EAO_CEAA_Substitution_MOU.pdf

Three factsheets follow.

Contact:

Ministry of Environment Communications
250 953-3834

FACTSHEET 1

Summary of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office on Substitution of Environmental Assessments

Purpose:

  • The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) sets out an administrative framework to enable efficient and timely use of the substitution provisions in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012).
  • It addresses the processes leading to substitution, the conduct of the substituted environmental assessment, Aboriginal consultation, and the co-ordination of decision-making, monitoring and follow-up after the environmental assessment.
  • The MOU outlines how information exchange will occur, describes the roles and responsibilities of the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (the Agency) and establishes a process for efficient and effective conduct of a substituted process leading to the respective environmental assessment decisions of federal and provincial ministers.

Defining Characteristics:

  • Consistent with its administrative nature, the MOU was signed by the president of the agency and the associate deputy minister of EAO.
  • At the conclusion of a substituted process, the governments of Canada and British Columbia will each make their respective environmental assessment decisions based on the environmental assessment process conducted by the EAO.
  • The commitments made in the MOU by British Columbia will demonstrate to the federal minister that British Columbia meets the conditions for substitution under CEAA 2012.
  • The agency commits to timelines in considering substitution requests from British Columbia.
  • The MOU acknowledges the duties of Canada and British Columbia to consult and sets out the approach to procedural delegation of Aboriginal consultation to British Columbia.
  • The agency will continue to provide funding for Aboriginal groups participating in the substituted environmental assessment. The EAO will make these funds available to Aboriginal groups to support consultation on substituted environmental assessments in addition to the funding the EAO currently provides.
  • An implementation steering committee will develop operational procedures, monitor implementation and address key issues.
  • The focus is on substitution, both on a project-by-project basis and for classes of projects; however, there is a commitment to explore implementation of equivalency under CEAA 2012 at a later date. Under equivalency, a single environmental assessment (B.C.'s) is conducted and single decision (B.C.'s) is made about whether the project should be granted conditional approval to proceed.

Overview:

  • Preamble - both parties commit to maintaining robust environmental assessments, meaningful consultation with Aboriginal groups and the goal of providing clarity and predictability for all participants.

1. Purposes - provide an administrative framework, including roles and responsibilities, to guide the processes leading to substitution, the conduct of the substituted environmental assessment and associated Aboriginal consultation and the co-ordination of decision-making, monitoring and followup after the environmental assessment.

2. Coordination prior to requests for substitution - provides for early exchange of information between the EAO and the Agency regarding potential substitution candidates and early advice to proponents that an assessment may be substituted.

3. Request for Substitution - Request and decision on substitution are in writing and done as early as possible. This section includes reference to the considerations the federal minister may take into account when considering substitution requests.

4. Requirements for a substituted Environmental Assessment - Sets out the factors in CEAA 2012 that the EAO will consider in a substituted environmental assessment, including additional factors set by the federal minister.

5. Procedural Delegation of Aboriginal Consultation - Acknowledgement of duties of Canada and British Columbia to consult, and the respective responsibilities of the parties in the delegation of procedural aspects of Aboriginal consultation to British Columbia.

6. Information Exchange during a Substituted Environmental Assessment - Establishes project lead and agency liaison to ensure that the agency is informed of key federal interests during the provincial conduct of the environmental assessment and associated Aboriginal consultation.

7. Delivery of the Assessment Report and Aboriginal Consultation Record - describes the process for delivery of the assessment report and briefings with the president of the agency and the associate deputy minister of EAO.

8. Co-ordination of Decisions and Announcements - the aim is to align timing of announcements by federal and provincial ministers to the extent possible.

9. Monitoring and Followup - opportunity to co-ordinate compliance with conditions set out in the provincial environmental assessment certificate and federal decision statement.

10. General Provisions - MOU is not legally binding and does not alter the legislation of either party. Implementation steering committee is established and described. Agreement to explore equivalency at a later date. Other standard clauses on revisions and termination.

Contact:

Ministry of Environment Communications
250 953-3834

FACTSHEET 2

Requests for Substituted Process under the CEAA/EAO Memorandum of Understanding on Substitution of Environmental Assessments

  • The Environmental Assessment Office has requested substitution of the Province's environmental assessment process for the federal process for two proposed projects:
  • The Carbon Creek coal mine located 40 kilometres west of Hudson's Hope.
  • The Sukunka coal project located 55 kilometres south of Chetwynd.

Carbon Creek Coal Mine

  • Cardero Coal Ltd. proposes to develop and operate an open pit metallurgical coal mine located approximately 60 kilometres northwest of Chetwynd and 40 kilometres west of Hudson's Hope, in northeast British Columbia. The proposed project would involve open pit surface mining, followed by combined open pit and underground mining. The production rate would be 4.1 million metric tonnes of metallurgical coal per year, over a mine life of 20 years.
  • With a production capacity of over 250,000 tonnes per year, the proposed project triggered a provincial environmental assessment for a coal mine. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has determined that a federal environmental assessment is required.

Sukunka Coal Project

  • Xstrata Coal Canada proposes to develop and operate an integrated surface and underground metallurgical coal mine located approximately 55 kilometres south of Chetwynd and 40 kilometres west of Tumbler Ridge, in northeast British Columbia. The proposed project would initially produce 1.5 to 2.5 million tonnes per year, increasing to 6 million tonnes per year when underground mining begins. The mine life is expected to exceed 20 years.
  • With a production capacity of over 250,000 tonnes per year, the proposed project triggered a provincial environmental assessment for a coal mine. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has determined that a federal environmental assessment is required.

Contact:

Ministry of Environment Communications
250 953-3834

FACTSHEET 3

Environmental Assessment for Major Projects in British Columbia

The growth in B.C.'s resource-based industries means that the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) has seen an increase in the number of proposed projects. In just the last four months, seven new projects have come into the environmental assessment process, an increase of 22 per cent in the number of active projects since November. The EAO is projecting that up to another 26 projects could come into the system in the next few years.

That is why funding to the EAO was increased by providing access to $1.8 million in contingency funding for the 2012-13 fiscal year. That funding has now been extended to September 2013.

As well, the number of permanent positions at the EAO has been increased from 58 to 68 and another 12 temporary positions have been added, for a total of 80 positions.

British Columbia's environmental assessment process examines major projects for potentially adverse environmental, economic, social, heritage and health effects that may occur during the life of the project. The process includes:

  • Opportunities for the involvement of all interested parties.
  • Consultations with First Nations.
  • Opportunities for the public to provide input on what issues the environmental assessment process should examine and to review the proponent's application through public comment periods .
  • Technical studies to identify and examine potential significant adverse effects.
  • Strategies to prevent or reduce adverse effects.
  • Review of studies and proponent strategies to mitigate adverse effects by a working group of technical experts from government agencies.
  • Comprehensive assessment reports summarizing information and findings.

Proposed major projects are subject to an environmental assessment if they meet the thresholds established in regulation. Thresholds include elements such as the area that is potentially impacted or production volumes. The Minister of Environment also has the authority to direct the review of a project that is not automatically reviewable and the EAO may decide to review a project at the request of the proponent.

Environmental Assessment Process

Pre-Application - The pre-application stage identifies the information and analysis to be included in a project's application that will allow the EAO to undertake an assessment and refer the application to the ministers making the decision on whether to grant an environmental assessment certificate.

The pre-application stage includes a public comment period of at least 30 days on the draft application information requirements (which specify the matters that will be studied in the assessment and the information that must be included in the application for a certificate).

Application Review - Once an application is accepted, the EAO has a maximum of 180 days to complete its review of a proposed project. During this stage, the application is provided to a project working group and First Nations for review and comment. It is also made available for public comment, typically for between 30 and 45 days.

Based on the feedback received, the EAO works with the project proponent and the environmental assessment working group to resolve outstanding concerns. This can include modifications to the proposal for the project.

Ministerial Decision - Following the review of the application for a project, the EAO provides an assessment report to the Minister of Environment and to the minister responsible for the project sector. The ministers can decide to issue an environmental assessment certificate, refuse to issue the certificate or send the application back for further assessment.

Compliance and Enforcement - An environmental assessment certificate, if issued, typically includes conditions (many with sub-conditions) that are legally-binding requirements that the proponent must meet to be in compliance with the certificate. As well, the project must obtain and comply with all applicable government permits and authorizations before it can be built and operated. The EAO works to ensure that the conditions recommended for inclusion in environmental assessment certificates are measurable and enforceable.

Once a certificate is issued, the EAO works with other natural resource sector agencies to coordinate and plan proactive compliance inspections. The EAO has two dedicated compliance officers who work with partner agencies to coordinate compliance activities and conduct inspections. Additional inspection support is provided by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations under a formal letter of agreement. That ministry's Natural Resource Officers can now simultaneously inspect for compliance with environmental assessment certificate conditions and with natural resource statutes, resulting in faster and more routine inspections of projects. In 2011-12, the EAO conducted 11 site inspections. So far in 2012-13, EAO staff have completed 17 inspections.

Contact:

Ministry of Environment Communications
250 953-3834

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