New policy requires look at upstream greenhouse gas emissions, more consultation with Aboriginal Peoples
The federal government is revamping the way resource projects are reviewed in Canada - changes that include a requirement to look at upstream greenhouse gas emissions.
The new policy, which the government calls a transition step while it hammers out new permanent rules, will also require more consultation with Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples.
The changes apply to two contentious pipeline projects that are currently dominating headlines: the proposed Trans Mountain oil pipeline in B.C. and TransCanada’s Energy East project from Alberta to New Brunswick.
But they’ll also apply to all resource projects, including LNG and mining proposals.
“We believe it is important and, in fact, essential to rebuild Canadians’ trust in our environmental assessment processes,” Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told a news conference Wednesday. “We need to take into account the views and concerns of Canadians, respect the rights and interests of indigenous peoples and support our natural resources sector.”
Hearings on Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain twinning project are almost over and the government is extending the deadline for a decision by four months, pushing it to next December.
As for Energy East, the government is extending the project review period by an extra six months and adding three temporary members to the National Energy Board in an effort to do greater public consultation.
TransCanada spokesman Mark Cooper said the company needs time to digest the new rules.
“We support a strong and clear regulatory framework that helps Canadians see our commitment to building and operating oil and gas pipelines in the safest and most environmentally sound way possible,” he said in an emailed statement.
“TransCanada operates in a highly regulated industry. We will continue to work with all levels of government and our regulators to ensure the continued safe and environmentally sound transportation of our natural resources to market.”
A decision on Energy East is now not expected before the middle of 2018.
The new assessment rules stress the requirement for input from indigenous communities; the government says it will provide funding to assist those deliberations.
Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said the changes will provide pipeline proponents greater certainty about the time involved in reaching decisions.
“If we’re going to attract the investments we need to sustainably develop our energy resources, then we have to better engage Canadians, conduct deeper consultations with indigenous peoples and base decisions on science, facts and evidence,” Carr said.
At least one advocate hailed the changes as more evidence of a new consultative, environmentally friendly approach to resource development, but complained that Energy East would be allowed to proceed under the new process.
Natural Resources Minister James Carr and Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna prepare to hold a joint news conference on pipelines in Ottawa Wednesday.