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Exempt Oil and Gas projects from Federal Law?
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Exempt Oil and Gas projects from Federal Law?

Nature Canada supports passage by Parliament of Bill C-69, which includes the proposed Impact Assessment Act. This law mandates the government to weigh the positive and negative impacts of projects that affect the environment, considering factors such as climate change, potential harm to watersheds and endangered species, public safety, and Indigenous rights, in order to minimize harms and boost benefits. The oil and gas industry has been lobbying in the Senate to weaken or kill the Bill, which was passed by the House of Commons in June. The oil and gas industry has also been lobbying to ensure that in situ oil sands projects, most pipelines, and fracking projects should be exempt from the new law even if it is passed. Nature Canada and other environmental groups are calling on Canada to expand the list of projects it reviews to ensure that greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental damage from proposed industrial development are minimized. In particular, Nature Canada is arguing that federal assessments should be required for all projects that propose to emit more than 50,000 tonnes of GHGs per year, that require permits under the Fisheries Act and Canadian Navigable Waters Act and projects located in National Parks, National Wildlife Areas or other federal protected areas (e.g., new roads, ski hills, tourist attractions).

Here is the link to the joint media release and comprehensive list of project categories that should be assessed.  

Why oilpatch suits are trying to boot Bill C-69
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Why oilpatch suits are trying to boot Bill C-69

Bill C-69 is a modest piece of legislation designed to improve how the federal government assesses and approves major development projects such as pipelines and  hydro dams, and restore public trust at the same time. Bill C-69 was passed by the House of Commons in June, after over two years of public consultations, expert panel reviews, and House of Commons debate and committee hearings. But now “Suits and Boots”, an oil and gas industry campaign, is lobbying Senators to defeat Bill C-69 by delaying final votes on the bill so it dies on the order paper in June when Parliament adjourns. In an article published in the Hill Times on October 24,  Stephen Hazell, Nature Canada’s director of policy and general counsel, explains why the arguments put forward by Suits and Boots are rubbish, and why Bill C-69, while far from perfect in terms of nature conservation, represents a significant improvement on the current failed law.

Click here for the entire article.

Oil industry, Notley opposition to Bill C-69 “wildly inaccurate,” environmental groups say  Pushback is an attempt to bypass crucial environmental oversight
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Oil industry, Notley opposition to Bill C-69 “wildly inaccurate,” environmental groups say Pushback is an attempt to bypass crucial environmental oversight

For immediate release - October 4, 2018 OTTAWA - A number of Canada’s leading environmental groups are calling out the oil and gas industry and other critics of Bill C-69 for what they say is false rhetoric about important improvements to key environmental laws. “There has been a lot of rubbish circulating about Bill C-69,” says Anna Johnston, a staff lawyer with the West Coast Environmental Law Association. “A very small, very vocal group out of the oilpatch has been spreading wildly inaccurate claims in order to kill some critical fixes to our environmental laws.” Bill C-69 introduces a new Impact Assessment Act to replace the existing Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012 (CEAA 2012), and reconfigures the National Energy Board. “These changes are not major,” says Josh Ginsberg, Director of Legislative Affairs at Ecojustice Canada. “The Impact Assessment Act is largely modelled on legislation we’ve had for decades, with some key improvements designed to enhance environmental protection while streamlining the process for proponents. And the Canadian Energy Regulator Act does not ‘kill’ the National Energy Board, as many are claiming. It simply gives the NEB a new name and adds some much-needed accountability measures.” Critics of the Bill state that it directs the government to consider too many potential effects of proposals, like climate impacts. Last week, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley cautioned that the Bill may amount to jurisdictional overreach because it requires the government to consider the social and health effects of projects, a claim that lawyers say is unfounded. “Nonsense,” says Stephen Hazell, Director of conservation and general counsel with Nature Canada. “Canada has been assessing the social and health impacts of projects for decades. The Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed the federal government’s constitutional authority to do so, and for almost 20 years our original environmental assessment law listed health and social considerations as factors to consider. This isn’t new.” The Bill has also been under fire for requiring consideration of the documented gendered impacts of resource development, for example when there is an influx of largely male workers to work on a project, something Johnston says is concerning. “Natural resource development tends to disproportionately impact women. That’s a fact. To suggest that we wouldn’t try to avoid things like increased sexual assault and teen pregnancy is frankly quite shocking,” she says. The previous federal government introduced CEAA 2012 at the request of the oil and gas industry, buried in omnibus “budget” Bill C-38 with no consultation or amendments. “Climate polluters already tried in 2012 to game the project review process and silence public input, but their attempts backfired and led to the gridlock we see today,” says Patrick DeRochie, Climate and Energy Program Manager with Environmental Defence. “In 2015, Canadians handed the federal government a strong mandate to repair and strengthen their environmental safety net. The oil and gas industry is going to have to learn to play by the rules, just like everyone else.” Bill C-69 follows more than two years of consultations, including public reviews by parliamentary committees and two independent expert panels. All affected industry sectors, environmental groups, the public and Indigenous peoples were invited to engage on multiple successive proposals before the Bill was drafted, and a House of Commons committee heard from over 100 witnesses. “The petroleum industry may not have gotten everything it wanted, but neither did we,” says Lindsay Telfer, National Director, Canadian Freshwater Alliance “We are not supporting this legislation because it is exactly what we want, we are supporting it because it reflects a compromise we can live with, one that meets the needs of all sectors and Canadians.” Bill C-69 is currently being reviewed by the Senate and is expected to pass early next year. -30-


For more information, please contact: Anna Johnston | Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law Association 604-340-2304, ajohnston@wcel.org (in Ottawa) Stephen Hazell | Director of Conservation and General Counsel, Nature Canada 613-724-1908, shazell@naturecanada.ca Supporting organizations: West Coast Environmental Law Association, Nature Canada, Ecojustice, Environmental Defence Canada, Canadian Freshwater Alliance, Centre québécois du droit de l'environnement (CQDE)
 

House of Commons Passes Reformed Environmental Laws
Parliament of Canada, House of Commons.
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House of Commons Passes Reformed Environmental Laws

[caption id="attachment_37532" align="alignleft" width="150"] Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and Legal Counsel.[/caption] On June 20, 2018, the House of Commons passed two important environmental laws -- Bills C-68 and C-69.  Bill C-68 reforms the Fisheries Act, largely fulfilling the Trudeau government’s election promise to restore legal protection of fish habitat. Bill C-69 includes two new laws: Impact Assessment Act and Canadian Energy Regulator Act, and amendments to the Navigable Waters Act. Nature Canada’s view is that, overall, a reasonable balance has been struck in Bill C-69 and that it will assist in regaining public trust in reviews of natural resource development projects. This new legislation is a darn sight better than what we have right now. Bill C-69 includes important reforms such as emphasizing sustainability and a single-agency approach to assessing resource projects, eliminating rules restricting public participation in hearings, and establishing a legislative framework for conducting regional and strategic impact assessments.  The House of Commons Environment Committee successfully added several helpful amendments to Bill C-69 including the following:

  • the government’s mandate in administering the Act is expanded to include respect for commitments to the rights of the Indigenous peoples of Canada and exercise powers to adheres to principles of scientific integrity, honesty, objectivity, thoroughness and accuracy;
  • decisions on projects will be “based on” the impact assessment report and in consideration of section 63 factors;
  • references to public participation were generally revised to add the adjective “meaningful”; and
  • Regulators such as the Canadian Energy Regulator and Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission may not constitute a majority on review panels, nor may they control the chair.

The Senate now has the opportunity to consider Bills C-68 and C-69. However, the current Parliamentary session will end 12 months from now, after which the campaign leading up to the October 2019 federal election will begin in earnest.  We expect that this schedule provides plenty of time for the Senate to complete its deliberations and pass these bills. Assuming Bills C-68 and 69 are passed by the Senate, their effectiveness depends hugely on regulations now being developed. The current federal environmental assessment law requires only that a handful of projects—mainly mining projects—be assessed in any given year by virtue of their being listed in a regulation. Nature Canada will be arguing strenuously that regulations should require that the following categories of projects should be required to be assessed by law:
  • projects that produce large quantities of greenhouse gas or other air pollutants (such as the proposed cement plant to be located near Hawksbury Ontario 70 km upwind from Montreal);
  • projects that are to be located in National Parks or National Wildlife Areas (such as the proposed alpine facilities in Banff National Park for the Calgary 2026 Winter Olympics bid); and
  • projects that require permits or approvals under the Fisheries Act or Species at Risk Act.
To Nature Canada, it is just common sense that projects that affect Canada’s ability to meet its responsibilities under the Paris Climate Accord or the Convention on Biological Diversity should automatically be assessed under federal law.
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HOUSE OF COMMONS PASSES ENVIRONMENT BILL TO IMPROVE RESOURCE PROJECT REVIEWS AND HELP REGAIN PUBLIC TRUST
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HOUSE OF COMMONS PASSES ENVIRONMENT BILL TO IMPROVE RESOURCE PROJECT REVIEWS AND HELP REGAIN PUBLIC TRUST

Ottawa, ON (June 21, 2018) —Today, the House of Commons passed Bill C-69—including a new law  the Impact Assessment Act—which should greatly improve environmental reviews of development projects as well as regain public trust. “Bill C-69 represents important reforms by emphasizing sustainability and a single-agency approach to assessing resource projects, and by eliminating rules restricting public participation in hearings” says Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and General Counsel. “We are satisfied that an appropriate balance has been struck in this legislation and that it will assist in regaining public trust in reviews of natural resource development projects.” “The Senate now has the opportunity to consider Bill C-69, including amendments, as passed by the House of Commons.” said Hazell.  “Nature Canada notes that the current Parliamentary session will end 12 months from now, after which the campaign leading up to the October 2019 federal election will begin in earnest.  We expect that this schedule provides plenty of time for the Senate to complete its deliberations and pass the bill.”


For media commentary please contact:  Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and General Counsel 613 724-1908 (cell) 613 562-3447 ext. 240 shazell@naturecanada.ca

Hazell: Testimony at the House of Commons for Bill C-69
Parliament of Canada, House of Commons.
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Hazell: Testimony at the House of Commons for Bill C-69

[caption id="attachment_36177" align="alignleft" width="150"] Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and General Counsel[/caption] On Thursday, April 18th, Stephen Hazell, the Director of Conservation and General Counsel at Nature Canada testified before the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. The Committee is considering Bill C-69, an omnibus bill to reform laws governing environmental assessment, the National Energy Board, and navigable waters. Read the following brief for an update on Nature Canada's position of Bill C-69. Stephen remarked that the proposed Impact Assessment Act includes important reforms such as establishing a strong Impact Assessment Agency; requiring assessments to consider a project's contribution to sustainability, Indigenous knowledge and Canada's climate commitments; and increasing transparency in decisions by requiring the Minister and Cabinet to provide reasons for approvals.


Nature Canada argued in it’s brief  and in Stephen’s testimony that the Impact Assessment Act needed amendments to achieve the following:
  • Restore legal requirements and reduce Ministerial discretion to reduce process uncertainty and potential political interference
  • Ensure assessments of projects likely to have adverse environmental effects that are subject to a federal decision
  • Ensure meaningful public participation in impact assessments
  • Put the federal house in order by strengthening impact assessments of projects on federal lands or that are federally financed
  • Restrict the role of energy regulators in the review panel process
  • Establish a legislative framework that ensures that regional assessment and strategic assessment tools are workable.

If you want to protect nature in Canada, take this opportunity to restore and strengthen legal protections by signing our petition!


After the committee hearing, Stephen touched upon other facets of Bill C-69 and the Impact Assessment Act that would effect nature in Canada, such as the proposed hosting of the 2026 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Alberta. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78n_ywIHOgQ&feature=youtu.be
Maura Forrest at National Post quoted Stephen, highlighting that "Environmental groups point out that the government has yet to publish its project list, meaning it's still unclear which activities will be subject to assessment. Even those projects on the list won't necessarily be assessed, because the government can decide they don't require review after a new early planning phase the Liberals have introduced."

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Updated: Our Thoughts on Environmental Laws & Bill C-69
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Updated: Our Thoughts on Environmental Laws & Bill C-69

[caption id="attachment_36177" align="alignleft" width="150"] Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and General Counsel[/caption] On April 12, Stephen Hazell, the Director of Conservation and General Counsel of Nature Canada was a featured guest on the Energy and the Environment segment with Before the Bell on the Sixth Estate. Appearing on the Energy and the Environment segment, Stephen discusses the concerns and issues surrounding Bill C-69, and the new environmental assessment review process. Click here to view the entire episode, with Stephen appearing between the 30:00 and 35:00 minute marks. After the segment, Before the Bell reporter Dale Smith highlighted Stephen's comment that “Having certainty at the political level is super important and we don’t have that with the bill,” Stephen noted that it makes it hard to judge intentions, and that while every government likes to have more discretion, the business and environmental communities like rules. “Impact assessment is about providing information for decision makers so that we can make sound decisions […] The Impact Assessment Act that has been proposed is a good step.” Although the bill is a good step,  Nature Canada's believes that the draft environmental assessment law is not nearly strong enough, and some industries are already lobbying to weaken it further. Nature Canada’s advocacy team is hard at work here in Ottawa standing up as your voice for nature. We testified in the House of Commons on April 18, and are working for amendments to better conserve nature in May and June. Over the summer, we will be preparing for additional debate of environmental law reform in the Senate this fall and working on the proposed regulations. In order to make sustainable, science-based decisions that will protect nature, wildlife and the health of all Canadians, here are some of the critical amendments to Bill C-69 we want included:

  • Expand the list of projects that trigger environmental assessment; merely evaluating the worst of the worst isn’t good enough.
  • Developments in National Parks and National Wildlife Areas, and in critical habitat for species at risk should be fully assessed as a matter of law.
  • The public must have a legal right to participate meaningfully in assessments, and the right to ask questions at hearings.
Click here to read our recent Letter to the Minister – outlining our concerns about “Project list” and how to improve and broaden consultation.
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