OTTAWA — Ecojustice and Sierra Club Canada will tell the House of Commons Finance Committee today to remove sections from the budget bill (C-9) that gut Canada’s environmental assessment law. Again this year, the federal government is hiding changes to Canada’s environmental protection laws in the budget to avoid public scrutiny.
“Canada’s environmental assessment law should be publicly debated in the House of Commons Environment Committee, not weakened through quick-and-dirty amendments buried in budget bills,” said Ecojustice lawyer Stephen Hazell. “Parliament is legally required to start a comprehensive review of this law in June, and the Environment Committee should be the body to recommend any changes.”
The changes proposed to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act in the budget bill include: exempting all infrastructure projects from environmental assessment; turning over energy project reviews to the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission; and allowing the environment minister to limit any environmental assessment to a portion of a project contrary to the recent Supreme Court Ruling on the Red Chris Mine.
“Yesterday’s revelation that a legal loophole allowed drilling by BP’s Deepwater Horizon to avoid a U.S. federal environmental assessment surely demands that our federal government stop the piecemeal dismantling of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act” said Hazell.
“Bill C-9 proposes to eliminate thousands of required environmental assessments as well as give the government broad discretion to reduce the scope of projects subject to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. For example, a proposed tar sands mine could be “scoped” so that the project for the purpose of the environmental assessment is reduced to a stream crossing. Public consultation rights under s. 21 would also be severely curtailed,” said John Bennett, Executive Director of Sierra Club Canada.
The Conservative government used the omnibus budget implementation legislation last year as well to weaken federal environmental assessment.