ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT IN SASKATCHEWAN

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT IN SASKATCHEWAN Ronald J. Zukowsky Environmental Assessment Branch Sask. Environment & Resource Management Room 142, ...
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ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT IN SASKATCHEWAN

Ronald J. Zukowsky Environmental Assessment Branch Sask. Environment & Resource Management Room 142, 3211 Albert St. Regina, Sask. S4S 5W6 Ph: (306) 787-6285 Fax: (306) 787-0930

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ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT IN SASKATCHEWAN Table of Contents for a Presentation to a Seminar on Environmental Law, Lenders & Liability by Ron Zukowsky, Executive Director Environmental Assessment Branch Saskatchewan Environment and Resource Management

I.

Environmental Assessment Processes in Saskatchewan The Environmental Assessment Act, Saskatchewan The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act The Federal Environmental Assessment and Review Process Guidelines Order Joint Processes

II.

Future Trends and Influences a)

Continued Evolution of Law, Policy and Practice Saskatchewan Federal Government

b)

International Influences International Convention on Transboundary Impacts NACEC ISO 14000

c)

Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment Bilateral Agreements on Coordination Environmental Management Framework Agreement Accord on Environmental Harmonization

III.

Conclusions

Appendix: Internet Addresses

ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT IN SASKATCHEWAN I.

ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT PROCESSES IN SASKATCHEWAN

In Saskatchewan both federal and provincial governments have requirements for environmental assessment which affect both public and private sector proponents of developments. The provincial Environmental Assessment Act is administered by the Environmental Assessment Branch and was passed in 1980. It consists of27 sections and has undergone no major amendments since then. There are no regulations under it. Unlike virtually every other environmental assessment statute in Canada, it does not make use of lists to identify projects subject to environmental assessment. Nevertheless, policy, practice and changing public attitudes have made the Act an effective mechanism to promote environmental protection. In 1996, a total of 98 projects were under review by the Branch. Ofthese, there were 13 considered as "developments" requiring in-depth technical and public review. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is administered by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA). It was passed in June, 1992 along with implementing regulations. Significant amendment occurred in December, 1994 and the Act entered into force in January 1995. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act replaced the Environmental Assessment and Review Process Guidelines Order (EARPGO). However, the transitional clauses of the Canadian Environmental AssessmentAct mean that some projects still under reviw in Saskatchewan are subject to EARPGO requirements and not the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Detailed statistics are kept under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Complete lists of projects under review across the nation and in Saskatchewan are available at the Internet site of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. In Saskatchewan alone, there were close to 1000 federal environmental assessments (EAs) carried out in Saskatchewan over the period April 1, 1995 to March 31, 1996. The majority of these appear to be quite minor projects involving very brief and cursory "screening" under federal processes. If one consults the public registry operated by CEAA, the three most numerous types of EAs relate to:

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permits to occupy a Indian reserve or to reside or exercise rights on Indian reserves (the Law List trigger section 28(2) of the Indian Act).

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permits under the National Wildlife Act for haying and grazing on federal lands;

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permits needed to undertake scientific salvage or samples of migratory birds.

The remainder of the list includes mainly an assortment of infrastructural projects caught by the federal funding or proponent triggers such as:

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construction of a concession booth at the sport ground in Abbey

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pit privy upgrade, Batoche National Historic site install artificial ice in arena, Birch Hills construct sidewalks, Climax replace day care centre, Cumberland House erect a shed for tractor, Macoun dig a new well, Rockglen

Finally, I would note that there is quite good cooperation between federal and provincial officials at the operational level to advise each other of projects under review and to permit opportunity for comment. Most ofthis co-operation occurs informally and is facilitated by a CEAA regional staff person based in Winnipeg. More formal modes of cooperation exist, the chief example of which is the current Joint Federal-Provincial Panel on Uranium Mine Developments in Saskatchewan.

II.

FUTURE TRENDS AND INFLUENCES

a)

Continued Evolution of Law, Policy And Practice

With respect to the provincial Act and associated processes, the proclamation of the Forest Resources Management Act will see a significant consequential amendment to The Environmental Assessment Act. The amendment will recognize current practice of requiring environmental impact assessments for forest harvesting associated with 20 year forest management plans. As noted earlier, The Environmental Assessment Act previously has not listed types of projects requiring review. This will be therefore, the first time that a specific type of project will be required in every instance to undergo a full environmental impact assessment. I would also note that regional staff will be playing a more central role in many environmental assessment functions and should, in particular, promote a more effective approach to monitoring and enforcement of compliance with the Act. On the federal side continued evolution means additional regulations to deal with various issues associated with the federal Act. CEAA recently gazetted regulations regarding timelines under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act processes. Other regulations might be developed to deal with cost recovery. At the level ofpolicy and practice, federal officials will be using experience with the act to refme and, in some cases, to define processes under the act. Considerable experience with panels is creating more in the way of policy and precedents to guide expectations. Similar experience in the area of comprehensive studies and screenings will do the same for those processes. Court decisions have also played a significant role in the evolution of environmental assessment practices both federally and in Saskatchewan. There are no significant Saskatchewan cases pending that I am aware of. However, the nature ofEA processes is such that there is always potential for court challenge by interested parties and, in ruling on those challenges, there are generally

3 implications for the interpretation and administration of environmental assessment processes. b)

International Influences

On the international side, federal and provincial jurisdictions have been discussing ratification ofthe International Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context. This convention would establish notification procedures for neighbouring countries, and access to information requirements where there are likely to be transboundary Impacts. Canada has signed this convention, but has not ratified it. While federal and provincial jurisdictions agree on the principles involved for coordination offederal and provincial processes with the requirements ofthe convention, final adherence has been delayed due to uncertainty as to whether or not the United States will also adhere. Also on the international side, the North American Agreement for Environmental Cooperation NAAEC) .may also have some effect on environmental assessment issues in Saskatchewan. Discussion is occurring on an agreement for cooperation between the federal government, the U.S. and Mexico on environmental assessment issues. However, the provinces are not yet involved in the review of their participation in any agreement to cooperate on environmental assessment. Additional information on this topic would be available at the Internetsite of the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (NACEC) as work proceeds. Finally, I would observe that development of the ISO 14000 standards could affect the administration and practice of environmental assessment systems. Companies following these standards may in the future be able to justify a more efficient or timely process of environmental assessment than those companies which do not. However, it is too early to tell at this point. c)

Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment

As processes evolve in response to evolutionary and international forces, additional challenges will be posed in the area of intergovernmental coordination. This is already an area of concern for proponents and interest groups alike. Following the court decision on Rafferty-Alameda Dams, governments have had increasingly to develop coordination mechanisms to reconcile their different environmental assessment processes where they both apply to the same project to provide a more certain process. Bilateral Agreements on Coordination

An initial response by federal and provincial governments has been to try to formalize informal arrangements for cooperation in the form of bilateral agreements between the federal government and individual provinces on coordination processes. CCME facilitated the development of a model framework for bilateral agreements.

4 Bilaterals now exist with Alberta and Manitoba. They are under development in B.C., Newfoundland, Ontario and Saskatchewan. In Saskatchewan, further action on a bilateral is awaiting the outcome of the national harmonization initiative discussed below. National Harmonization Initiatives

Bilateral agreements aim to reconcile existing processes as legislation permits. However, being focussed, mainly project reviews where both federal and provincial processes apply, they are only a limited force for a nation wide approach to Environmental Assessment. CCME facilitated the development of principles for environmental assessment in 1991. More recently, environmental assessment harmonization was discussed in the failed federal-provincial discussions around the Environmental Management Framework Agreement (EMFA). A second attempt is now being made in the current ongoing discussions on a National Accord for Environmental Harmonization.



In the ongoing Accord process, Ministers have agreed in principle to an Accord and two subagreements on inspections and standards. However, Ministers are awaiting the successful conclusion of a sub-agreement on assessment before finalizing the Accord. A discussion paper on environmental assessment harmonization has been released for public comment. A draft agreement is under preparation by federal and provincial officials and will be available on the Internet shortly. If all goes well, a sub-agreement to harmonize environmental assessment processes may occur in May 1997. In consequence, changes to provincial legislation might be required to implement provisions ofthe agreement. This might also provide the opportunity to accomplish other changes to provincial processes. Additional information on the Environmental Harmonization Accord, sub-agreements and the harmonization initiative in general is available on the Internet or from CCME.

IV.

Conclusion

Environmental assessment processes have not been developed for our personal convenience. They are part of a political and social response to encourage better planning of projects with potential disruptive environmental and social consequences. The core ofthe process remains the provision of a forum where information may be presented and evaluated. Differing views, values and interpretations may be expressed, considered and, hopefully, reconciled. From the point of view of most practitioners of EA, the more cooperative, effective and efficient the process, the less need will there be for recourse to the courts. The desire to avoid court action is a significant incentive for improvements in process and the science of environmental impacts. Nevertheless, no matter how cooperative, efficient and effective we may make the process, a certain amount of disagreement will characterize the process.

Appendix: Internet Addresses CCME: http:www.ccme.ca/ccme/ (General site) CCME: http:www.ccme.ca/ccme/hi_now.html (Hannonization site) ISO: http://www.iso.ch/ NACEC: http://www.cec.org/ SERM-EAB: [email protected](e-mail only) CEAA:http:www.ceaa.gc.ca