The Canadian government, as part of its “Economic Action Plan 2012,” has released a plan for “Responsible Resource Development” to streamline the review process for major economic projects. The plan calls for movement to a “one project, one review” system for reviews of major projects by recognizing provincial processes as substitutes or equivalents to federal ones as long as they meet the requirements under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

The plan calls for consolidation of the number of organizations responsible for reviews from more than 40 to three: The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

Under the new plan, decisions by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency on whether a federal environmental assessment is required will made earlier in the process, within 45 days. Timelines will be set for hearings and assessments: 24 months for panel reviews, 18 months for National Energy Board hearings and 12 months for standard environmental assessments. Legally binding timelines will be set for key regulatory permitting processes, including the Fisheries Act, the Species at Risk Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.

Federal assessment efforts will focus on major projects that can have significant environmental effects. For the first time, federal inspectors will have the authority to examine whether or not conditions of a decision statement are being met; and for the first time, administrative monetary penalties will be authorized for violations of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the National Energy Board Act. These penalties will be designed to address small contraventions quickly so that larger issues do not arise. Further details on the penalties will be available once legislation is introduced.

The plan for “Responsible Resource Development” was announced by Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver, who said, “Streamlining the review process for major economic projects will attract significant investment dollars and give every region of our country a tremendous economic boost. It will produce hundreds of millions of dollars in government revenues that fund important social programs. And it will create good jobs and stimulate economic activity throughout the supply chain. That is what we are determined to achieve. That is what responsible resource development is about.”

Further details about Canada’s plan for “Responsible Resource Development” can be accessed at the plan website