Nature Canada

Federal government misses opportunity to conserve nature and act on climate

Under proposed regulations released on May 1, major oil and gas projects and many developments in federal protected areas would not be required by law to be assessed for their impacts on nature and climate.

The proposed project list regulations implicitly reject proposals by nature and environmental groups to require that the following categories of projects be assessed by law:

  • Projects that produce large amounts of carbon pollution—whether oil sands projects, cement plants or others—to ensure potential climate impacts are assessed;
  • Development projects in federal protected areas such as National Parks and National Wildlife Areas (subject to exemptions for small projects); and
  • Major projects that require federal permits under the Fisheries Act or Navigable Waters Act.

What the proposed regulations mean for nature

Instead, the draft regulations make no provision for assessments triggered based on potential climate impacts. High-carbon projects such as in situ oil sands projects, fracking developments, and cement plants get a free pass from federal review. Now, fewer pipelines and coal mines would be assessed due to higher proposed thresholds.

Higher thresholds are also proposed for offshore oil and gas exploration, uranium mines, nuclear power plants, metal mines, highways, and railways. This would mean that fewer, if any, federal assessments would be required for projects in these categories.

New dams, water diversions, railways, and highways in National Parks would be required to be assessed, as would other physical works that are inconsistent with Parks Canada management plans (this latter condition would almost certainly mean that few if any new physical works in National Parks are assessed).

Wind energy facilities with more than 10 wind turbines (roughly 20 megawatts) would be required to be assessed. But only huge hydroelectric projects producing more than 200 megawatts would be required to be assessed.

The proposed regulations identify categories of projects that are subject to the requirements of the proposed Impact Assessment Act, which forms a major part of Bill C-69 currently being debated by the Senate. Nature Canada supports passage of Bill C-69 by the Senate by June as an improvement over the current statute.

the awkward moment when

It is indeed awkward that the current regulations brought into force by the Conservative government in 2012 are better for nature and climate than the regulations proposed by the Liberal government.

The draft regulations are open for public comment until May 31, 2019. Comments and submissions can be provided at the following website:

Please let the government know that high-carbon polluting projects and developments in federal protected must be required to be assessed under the regulations.

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