Canada’s Impact Assessment Act, dubbed “the no-more-pipelines bill” by those in the oil and natural gas industry, has gone into effect covering new energy infrastructure.
The act, which applies to all energy infrastructure reviewed by federal regulators, calls for assessing project effects on women, indigenous peoples, health and climate change, as well as impacts to land, air, water and wildlife.
The act also overhauls Canada’s federal regulatory apparatus. The National Energy Board (NEB) is being reorganized and renamed the Canadian Energy Regulator (CER). The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency would grow into the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada and take command of the new structure.
The industry describes the new legislation, which replaces the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, as a charter of empowered project opposition, regulatory delay, protest lawsuits and political interference.
Canada’s government website describes the new legislation as “better rules” for the estimated C$650 billion ($488 billion) of next-generation development.
“The better rules...are essential to protecting our environment and communities while making sure good projects can get built to create jobs for the middle class.”
More detailed regulations necessary for implementing the law are being prepared. A draft of a filing manual for project applications to the CER provides guidance of the coming rules.
“Meeting climate change commitments could influence the market, supply and economic conditions in which the project will operate,” according to the draft CER manual.
“In order to understand the extent to which the effects of a project would hinder or contribute to the Government of Canada’s ability to meet its commitments in respect of climate change, it is also necessary to assess how climate change laws, regulations and policies may affect markets and influence the need for the project and its economic feasibility.”
The draft CER manual calls for gender-based analysis, described as “a means of identifying and analyzing how sex, gender and other identity factors might result in different groups of people being affected by a pipeline or power line project in different ways. “ Additional identity factors can include religion, race, social position, income, age, ability and education.
Participation and rights of Canada’s indigenous populations command a high level of protection by the reformed regulatory apparatus. TC Energy Corp. has already grappled with such expanded protections in its applications for expansion of the Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. system.
The draft CER manual said, “applicants should describe the potential adverse impacts of the project’s components and physical activities on the exercise or practice of the identified general and specific indigenous rights of each potentially impacted indigenous community.”
The draft goes onto to describe the potential adverse impacts as any way in which a resource or pipeline development project might affect resources that indigenous communities use to exercise their rights.
The new legislation may not survive the Oct. 21 federal election if the current administration is voted out.
The official opposition Conservative Party vows to repeal the act and the Liberals’ carbon tax. The smaller New Democratic Party and Green Party advocate stricter rules to stop fossil fuel growth projects and cut production and consumption.
The Liberal Party’s chances for reelection suffered under some negative publicity following an Aug. 14 verdict from Parliament’s ethics commissioner that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated its Conflict of Interest Act by trying to stop a bribery prosecution of a Montreal-based international engineering firm. The episode included resignations by two senior federal cabinet ministers, the prime minister’s principal secretary and Canada’s top civil servant.