The Agency provides leadership and serves as a centre of expertise for federal environmental assessment. It is responsible for the overall administration of the federal environmental assessment process. The Agency:
CEAA 2012 and its regulations establish the legislative basis for the federal practice of environmental assessment in most regions of Canada.
The purpose of CEAA 2012 is to:
Under the CEAA 2012, an environmental assessment of a designated project may be required when there is the potential for adverse environmental effects that are within federal jurisdiction including:
CEAA 2012 does not generally apply north of 60˚ where there are environmental assessment regimes in federal legislation, such as the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act, that have resulted from land claim agreements.
Documents that can provide guidance on legislated obligations for federal environmental assessments under CEAA 2012 are available in the Policy and Guidance section.
The Policy and Guidance section includes archived material on the application of the former Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, as well as details for training opportunities and targeted information for industry representatives.
The responsibility for conducting an environmental assessment rests with:
An environmental assessment considers a set of factors that include the:
There are several opportunities for public participation during the environmental assessment of a designated project, including a comment period on the draft environmental assessment report.
When the Agency is the responsible authority, the Minister of the Environment may refer the environmental assessment of a designated project to a review panel. The Minister’s decision to refer must occur within 60 days of the start of an environmental assessment.
The Minister may refer the environmental assessment of a designated project to a review panel if he or she is of the opinion that it is in the public interest to do so. When exercising this authority, the Minister must consider the following factors:
A review panel is composed of an expert, or a group of experts appointed by the Minister of the Environment, and selected on the basis of their knowledge, experience and expertise relevant to anticipated environmental effects. The review panel’s job is to carry out the environmental assessment of a proposed designated project. The environmental assessment considers a set of factors that includes the:
In the conduct of all federal environmental assessments, the following factors must be considered:
Responsibility for the environment and environmental assessment is shared between the federal and provincial governments. Aboriginal groups are also taking greater control and management of their environment and resources through constitutionally protected modern treaties (comprehensive claims, self-government agreements), many of which include environmental assessment provisions.
Under Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012), the responsibility for conducting a federal environmental assessment rests with:
Fostering cooperation and coordinated action between federal and provincial governments is one of the principles of CEAA 2012. The goal is to prevent costly duplication while ensuring high-quality environmental assessments and protection of the environment. To this end, the Agency may delegate any part of an environmental assessment to a province.
CEAA 2012 has new provisions for substitution and equivalency. When approving a substitution, the Minister must be satisfied that the other process is an appropriate substitute for the CEAA 2012 process and that the substantive requirements of the CEAA 2012 process will be satisfied by the other process. These requirements consist of:
Assuming these conditions are met and there is a request from a province or an Aboriginal government to substitute its process for a federal environmental assessment, then the Minister of the Environment must allow the other process to substitute for a federal environmental assessment, but not federal decision-making.
Finally, the Governor in Council, on the Minister of the Environment’s recommendation, may exclude a designated project from application of CEAA 2012 if it determines that the province will undertake an equivalent assessment. An equivalent assessment must meet the conditions for substitution, make a determination as to whether the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, ensure the implementation of all mitigation measures and a follow –up program, and satisfy any other conditions established by the Minister of the Environment.
The provisions for substitution and equivalency do not apply if a designated project is being assessed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission or the National Energy Board or if the project has been referred to a review panel.
For more information on cooperative/coordinated environmental assessments and joint review panels, please see the Basics of Environmental Assessment.
Under CEAA 2012, there are provisions for environmental assessment by responsible authorityand environmental assessment by review panel.
Both types of environmental assessment consider the same factors, require public participation, and result in decision statements with enforceable conditions.
The regulations identify projects that are likely to require an environmental assessment because of their potential to cause significant adverse environmental effects.
The Minister of the Environment may also designate a project not identified in the Regulations Designating Physical Activities if the project may cause adverse environmental effects or there are public concerns about such effects.
The following timelines are set by legislation:
All of the above timelines apply to government activities and do not apply to the period of time required by the proponent to gather the information needed to complete the environmental assessment. The Agency will report on its record in meeting these timelines.
Timelines for the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the National Energy Board are covered under their respective statutes.
The Minister of the Environment designates officers to verify compliance with CEAA 2012. The Minister may also seek an injunction to stop activities that violate CEAA 2012 or to prevent such violations.
When the Agency is the responsible authority, proponents are prohibited from proceeding with a designated project that causes adverse environmental effects on areas of federal jurisdiction until the Agency determines that an environmental assessment is not required or the Minister of the Environment issues a decision statement indicating the project is unlikely to cause any significant adverse environmental effects or that the Governor in Council has determined that such effects are justified in the circumstances.
Failure to fulfil the conditions in a decision statement related to environmental effects on areas of federal jurisdiction is an offence under CEAA 2012. Other offences set out in CEAA 2012 are: obstruction of designated officers; making false statements; and the failure to comply with an order issued by a designated officer.
Contraventions of CEAA 2012 can result in fines ranging from $100,000 to $400,000.
Environmental assessment is a predictive science with an element of uncertainty about potential effects and the ability of mitigation measures to address these effects. Follow-up programs are mandatory after all environmental assessments of designated projects. These programs are intended to verify the accuracy of the predictions regarding potential environmental effects and to determine if mitigation measures are working as intended. In doing so, these programs may identify areas where mitigation measures need to be adapted to address unforeseen circumstances while building a knowledge base to improve future predictions.
Members of the public can participate at various stages of the environmental assessment process.
Once the Agency receives a complete project description, it must consider whether or not an environmental assessment is required. During this determination, the public is provided with an opportunity to comment on the proposed project and its potential for causing adverse environmental effects.
When it has been decided that an environmental assessment is required, the public is given an opportunity to comment on which aspects of the environment may be affected by the project and what should be examined during the environmental assessment.
Once the proponent submits its environmental impact statement, the public is invited to comment on the identified potential environmental effects of the project and the measures to prevent or mitigate those effects as proposed by the proponent. At this stage, avenues for comment and additional opportunities to participate may include open houses or public meetings.
Finally, the public is provided an opportunity to comment on the draft environmental assessment report. This document includes the Agency's conclusions regarding the potential environmental effects of the project, the mitigation measures that were considered and the significance of the remaining adverse environmental effects.
Environmental Assessment by a Review Panel
The Minister of the Environment may refer an environmental assessment to a review panel if the Minister is of the opinion that it is in the public interest to do so. To make his or her decision, the Minister must consider whether the designated project may cause significant adverse environmental effects, whether there are public concerns related to the significant adverse environmental effects, and whether there are opportunities for cooperation with another jurisdiction that may be assessing the project, or any part of it.
A review panel is a group of independent experts appointed by the Minister of the Environment, in cooperation with another jurisdiction in the case of joint review panels, to conduct an environmental assessment. The members are selected on the basis of their knowledge, experience and expertise, and must be free from bias or conflict of interest relative to the designated project.
A review panel assesses whether the environmental impact statement prepared by the proponent is sufficient to proceed to public hearings. The hearings allow interested parties, including Aboriginal groups, to present evidence, concerns and comments regarding the potential environmental impacts of the designated project.
Review panels have the capacity to summon witnesses, and order witnesses to present evidence and produce records related to the environmental assessment.
The review panel prepares a report that includes its rationale, conclusions and recommendations, and submits its report to the Minister of the Environment. The report will also contain any proposed mitigation measures and suggestions for the follow-up program.
You may wish to subscribe to the Agency News Bulletin. This weekly email provides the most up-to-date information and announcements on projects currently undergoing an environmental assessment. You can search by province or by assessment type, and can easily link to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry or share information using Twitter and Facebook.
Environmental assessment is a process to predict environmental effects of proposed initiatives before they are carried out.
An environmental assessment:
The Participant Funding Program (PFP) is administered by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (the Agency). It is a limited fund to support the participation of interested individuals, not-for-profit organizations and Aboriginal groups in key stages of the federal environmental assessment review process.
The PFP supports public participation that contributes to an open, balanced process and strengthens the quality and credibility of federal environmental assessment. Sections 57 and 58 of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 require the Responsible Authorities to establish a PFP to facilitate the participation of the public in the environmental assessments they conduct. The Agency is also required to establish a PFP for environmental assessments by review panels. The Agency, the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission have all established funding programs.
Individuals, Aboriginal groups and not-for-profit organizations may apply for participant funding under the Agency’s program, providing they can demonstrate that they meet at least one of the following criteria:
Local governments, other than Aboriginal governments, are ineligible for participant funding under the Agency’s program.
Once the level of funding has been determined, the Agency announces the availability of funding for a project undergoing a federal environmental assessment in a public notice published on the Agency’s website and in local media. The names of recipients are also announced once they are known.
Aboriginal groups eligible for PFP and potentially affected by the project are contacted directly and notified of the opportunity to apply for PFP.
You may wish to subscribe to the Agency News Bulletin. This weekly email provides the most up-to-date information and announcements on projects currently undergoing an environmental assessment. You can access information in the Agency News Bulletin by province or by assessment type, and can easily link to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry or share information using Twitter and Facebook.
A closing date is provided in the public notice inviting applicants to submit a request for funding. Incomplete applications or applications received after the closing date will not be accepted.
The Agency’s PFP covers expenses incurred to participate in activities related to environmental assessments. These expenses can include: fees for expert advice, travel expenses, purchase of relevant information materials, information collection and dissemination costs, among others.
Certain activities are not funded, such as duplicate services, studies or written materials which are being funded by other public or private sources, including information provided for or by the panel or proponent. General operations and maintenance expenses are also not covered.
PFP may cover legal expenses except for costs associated with activities related to litigation. Emphasis will be placed on covering high priority expenses for all applicants before medium priority expenses such as legal fees are considered.
PFP is a limited financial contribution for the person or group to participate, and is not meant to cover all expenses incurred.
A decision is made on the amount to allocate on a project-by-project basis considering:
You must meet the basic eligibility criteria and you must:
The Agency establishes a Funding Review Committee. This committee is independent of both the project proponent and the environmental assessment review process. The committee is usually comprised of three people, including one Agency representative and at least one non-government member.
The committee reviews all the funding applications and recommends funding awards, taking into account the amount of funds available. The President of the Agency makes the final decision on funding awards.
The Agency issues a news release announcing the allocation of funds and makes the Funding Review Committee Report public, which provides the reasons for the funding decisions. The report is sent to applicants and posted on the Agency's website.
Applicants must complete an application form and send it to the Agency’s PFP. Successful applicants must sign a standard contribution agreement and submit a request for reimbursement with supporting documentation before they can receive the funds.