The NEB and environmental assessment
Issue: The NEB and environmental assessment
Environmental assessment (EA) plays a critical role in the National Energy Board’s (NEB or Board) assessment of projects. Environmental effects have been considered in NEB decisions since the early 1970s. So what exactly is an EA?
In short, an EA is a review of the effects likely to be associated with a project. It also includes their impacts on the environment, possible ways available to reduce those impacts and an assessment of how they may act cumulatively with similar impacts in a region. An EA also includes an assessment of the seriousness (or “significance”) of any remaining effects after mitigation. This assessment is completed before the Board makes a decision or recommendation on a project.
Companies are required to file an environmental and socio-economic impact assessment with the NEB as part of a project application. The NEB encourages companies to work with Indigenous groups in the project area and use traditional knowledge to inform those assessments. Likewise, companies are expected to engage with organizations or communities in the area to gather local knowledge of the environment.
The NEB also expects companies to consult with people who could be directly impacted by a project. This might mean carrying out an extensive consultation program or simply notifying landowners, depending on the project. When a company submits its project application and its assessment, it must include information on who was consulted, what their concerns were, how they were addressed or why they were not addressed. Companies must justify the extent of consultation carried out for each project. If the extent of consultation is not adequate, the Board can require companies to take additional steps.
Once filed, the company’s assessment is scrutinized by NEB environmental and socio-economic specialists. This means ensuring that it covers the appropriate issues in sufficient detail, testing the company’s analysis and conclusions and seeking additional information.
Environmental Assessment Process
Anyone with relevant information or concerns about the impacts of a project may apply to participate in the NEB’s assessment process. For example, the Board encourages Indigenous participants to include traditional knowledge in their evidence and, if a hearing is held, often includes an opportunity for Indigenous groups to provide oral traditional evidence. Other federal departments and other stakeholders may have valuable information to contribute to the Board’s EA and they are able to share this information through the Board’s assessment process.
The EA is only complete after the Board has considered all of the information filed as part of the application, as well as the evidence submitted during the project assessment from other participants. The EA contains the NEB’s assessment of the environmental effects of the project and the NEB’s conclusions, as well as the conditions it would impose and the required follow-up programs if the project is approved. These conditions ensure sufficient environmental protection measures will be implemented.
Our NEB specialists continue to be involved throughout the life-cycle of a project, from construction through abandonment – overseeing compliance with environmental conditions, carrying out environmental inspections, auditing environmental management systems, and working to resolve landowner complaints.
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