OTTAWA, Ont.—The federal government has submerged its multi-faceted plan to overhaul environmental protections in a much larger piece of legislation.
The major changes to environmental and pipeline policy now are part of an omnibus budget bill—mixed in with myriad changes to tax policy and other fiscal matters.
The budget bill, tabled this morning, repeals the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, officially pulling Canada out of the global agreement on greenhouse gas emissions.
It also contains fundamental changes to environmental assessment, setting out timelines, allowing Ottawa to hand off assessments to the provinces and consolidating the process in three government agencies.
The “one project, one review” policy would reserve federal assessments for major projects and allow provincial processes as substitutes if requirements under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act were met. This would be at the discretion of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency but the decision would have to be made within 45 days.
Timelines for hearings and assessments would be set at 24 months for panel reviews, 18 months for National Energy Board hearings and 12 months for standard environmental assessments. Legally binding timelines would be set for key regulatory permitting processes, including the Fisheries Act, the Species at Risk Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.
And the bill also gives federal cabinet the final say over oil and gas pipelines—a controversial measure that worries environmentalists.