In Canada, major infrastructure projects, such as the building of an interprovincial pipeline, a nuclear energy facility or large-scale mine are subject to federal review. For energy projects, that review is governed by two pieces of legislation: the National Energy Board Act (NEBA) and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency Act (CEAA).
Bill C-69 is a piece of government legislation titled “The modernization of the National Energy Board and Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.” The bill, which was passed by Parliament in June 2019, will overhaul both the NEBA and CEAA, changing how major infrastructure projects are reviewed and approved in Canada. Changes would include replacing the National Energy Board with a new “Canadian Energy Regulator” and an altered federal environmental assessments process to include a broad range of impacts to be reviewed by a new “Impact Assessment Agency.”
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) have expressed concern over the legislation. The Canadian government introduced Bill C-69 with the expressed aim to increase trust and certainty in Canada's review process. However CAPP, its oil and natural gas members and numerous other industry and business groups across the country say that the Bill will have the opposite effect, driving away investment into Canada by making it extremely difficult to approve major projects like pipelines in the future.\
“The impacts of a flawed Bill C-69 go well beyond hurting Canada’s oil and natural gas industry. Every Canadian will be hurt by driving investment out of the country and preventing important nation-building projects from being developed,” said CAPP president and CEO Tim McMillan.
Some of the critical issues with Bill C-69 as currently proposed by the federal government are:
- Loss of local voices – Stakeholders and local communities directly impacted by a project will not be given greater consideration in the project review process. This means funded activists living in New York City will have the ability to drown out the voices of Canadians living next door to development.
- Jobs are not important – Economic benefits for Canadians, such as job creation and increased investment in our nation, are not considered an important factor in project reviews. The government does not want to consider potential economic and social effects to determine if a project is in the public interest.
- Project reviews are not the right forum for policy debates – Bill C-69 allows for debates on public policy which should be determined in other forums. The oil and natural gas industry fully accepts following established policies around climate change and the intersection of sex and gender, but ask they be developed outside of the project review process. In addition, it’s a waste of stakeholders’ time and proponent resources to be required to consider alternatives to a project, even when those alternatives are outside of their own industry. For example, a pipeline project group should not have to debate the merits of a wind farm or mine in their proposal.
- No hard cap on timelines – Industry asked for a limit on project review timelines so companies can gain clarity on when they will proceed to approval or rejection. When proponents consider investing billions of dollars in a country on a project that will operate for decades, it’s reasonable to ask for the government to commit to a timeline – yet they rejected the requirement to put a hard cap on the length of the review process.
- Refusal to respect the expertise of regional regulators - The government’s Bill C-69 does not sufficiently respect the expertise of provincial and life-cycle regulators in project assessments. The Bill significantly reduces their role by not allowing the regulatory bodies with the most knowledge of the industry and region to make up a majority on review panels.