Today, almost all developed countries have adopted effective environmental assessment procedures to ensure environmental sustainability. Companies, whether new or old, have to undergo an environmental assessment process and get clearance before they begin work on their projects.
In British Columbia, the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO), assesses major projects for potentially significant adverse environmental, social, economic, health and heritage effects. The process is mandatory as per the Environmental Assessment Act. Organizations take help of environmental lawyers to help them manoeuvre the process.
The assessment comprises of three steps namely, the pre-application phase, the application review phase, and the final decision. Let’s discuss these steps in detail.
In the pre-application phase, the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO), ensures that it has all the information it needs to conduct the assessment. The proponent (the company that has to undergo the assessment), is supposed to submit an application to the EAO for the environmental assessment certificate. Your environmental lawyer will assist you in preparing the application form for the EAO. The EAO then has 30 days to confirm whether it contains the information necessary to initiate the application review phase.
Application Review Phase
During the application review phase, the concerned technical groups and the indigenous groups go through the application for review and comment. There is a specific period allotted for every application wherein it is made publicly available for review and comment. The comments received during a public comment period are posted on the Environment Assessment Office’s website. Once the EAO gets the feedback from the indigenous groups, the technical group, and the public, attempts are made to resolve all outstanding concerns and problems associated with the project. According to the Prescribed Time limits Regulation, the application review should be completed within 180 days. If the proponent requires more time to come up with additional documents, then the EAO can extend this time frame.
The Final Decision
After the EAO does a thorough assessment of the project, they send a detailed report on the details of the project and its environmental implications to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. The report is also sent to the Minister of the concerned project sector. For example, if the project is in the Oil and Gas sector, then it is sent to the Natural Resources Minister in Canada. The Ministers will then go through it and send their final decision within 45 days. The Ministers usually have three options when it comes to deciding on the project:
- They may issue the Environmental Assessment Certificate with a few conditions for the proponent if required.
- They may refuse to issue the certificate,
- They may call for further study or assessment.
Are you planning to start a new project in British Columbia? If yes, then consult with an environmental lawyer to help you with the environmental assessment process.