Will Ottawa really be able to speed up the environmental review process?

There was a flurry of discussion this week in the resource and environmental communities after the federal government announced that it would streamline the environmental assessment process with a goal to help improve timelines for the approval of resource projects.

Reaction to the government’s announcement from the energy and mining industries was fairly positive, while environmental groups sounded the alarm bell about how these changes will hurt the environment.

But will the reforms actually improve the timelines for resource project approvals?

Stikeman Elliot’s Energy Law blog has a good breakdown of the proposed changes. The authors raise an important cautionary note about one part of the government’s proposal – binding timelines for reviews:

While the establishment of binding timelines is a welcome step, our experience with similar timelines in provincial environmental assessment regimes is that they are difficult for a proponent to enforce where a project meets with significant opposition.

With the acrimonious and polarized debates about pipelines taking place at the political and local level, “significant opposition” may be a bit of an understatement for what is in store.

Tim Wilbur

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