The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and pipelines: 4 things you should know

In an earlier post on this blog we talked about the federal government’s upcoming review of Canada’s environmental and regulatory processes, specifically, the Navigation Protection Act. This week we’re taking a look at the upcoming review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA).

Here are four things you should know about CEAA and pipelines:

#1 Pipeline projects go through federal environmental assessments

“The purpose of the CEAA is to ensure the review of projects that are within federal legislative authority consider and mitigate “significant adverse environmental effects” on the environment and are thoroughly assessed and carried out in a careful manner. The Act also protects the impacted stakeholders’ consultation rights, including Indigenous peoples and the public. You can read a full definition of the Act here.”

You can read a full definition of the Act here.

#2 The NEB has a critical role

Pipeline projects that cross provincial or international borders projects are subject to a review by the National Energy Board (NEB), which includes an environmental assessment under the CEAA 2012.

The NEB has decades of experience considering the potential environmental effects of pipelines. As the regulator responsible for pipelines through their entire lifecycle, from planning to retirement, it has an in-depth understanding of industry best practices and standards, environmental impacts and mitigation measures.

#3 CEPA is involved in the CEAA review

The federal government’s goal for the review is “to develop new, fair processes that are robust, incorporate scientific evidence, protect our environment, respect the rights of Indigenous peoples, and support economic growth.”

The review is being conducted by an expert panel and is being advised by a Multi-Interest Advisory Committee.  As a member of the committee, CEPA is working with  representatives from Indigenous organizations, industry associations and environmental groups, to provide the panel with the perspectives of a wide variety of stakeholders.

CEPA fully supports this review, and believes it provides an opportunity to ensure Canada’s environmental assessment process is based on evidence and science, and which is fair, transparent, timely and coordinated. This review will help our industry foster public confidence and ensure that Canada remains competitive.

#4 CEAA review includes Indigenous participation

Pipeline companies are committed to engaging in meaningful consultation with Indigenous groups who are impacted by projects. This includes recognizing the importance of traditional knowledge and experience with the land in the planning stages of a project.

However, there is a lack of clarity and consistency regarding the respective roles of the Crown and the pipeline companies themselves on Indigenous consultation, which makes this process challenging.

That’s why Indigenous participation in the CEAA review is critical, in order to establish effective processes for resolving the issues and concerns of Indigenous people; and to ensure  Indigenous communities should be involved much earlier in the project review process. This will provide an opportunity to distinguish between those issues that can be addressed within the context of the project review and those that require a broader nation-to-nation discussion.

Why the review is important

As an industry, we are keen to build public confidence in a review process that is fair, transparent, coordinated, clear, efficient, comprehensive and based on science and evidence. CEPA would like to see a process that avoids duplication, but which allows ample opportunity for meaningful consultation with Indigenous groups and stakeholders.

Stay tuned for future blog posts where we will discuss other legislation that is also under review by Parliamentary Committees or Expert Panels – the National Energy Board modernization, and the Fisheries Act. In the meantime, you can read about the review of the Navigation Protection Act.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 119,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2015, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Our members transport 97 per cent of Canada’s daily natural gas and onshore crude oil from producing regions to markets throughout North America.

An ‘environmental assessment’ is a process designed to identify the potential adverse environmental effects of a project, to propose measures to mitigate those effects and to verify the effects and the effectiveness of mitigation measures after the project is completed.