"Arbitrary changes would therefore not expedite the review of the majority of projects, and may instead rubber-stamp those few projects that actually merit more in-depth reviews because of their potential to cause greater environmental damages," he adds.
The researchers focused on the Fisheries Act for the study because it mandates a high load of environmental reviews, has been identified as a contributor to the potentially long federal review times, and has had its legislative powers reduced recently. The study, published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, is the first independent and empirical estimate of environmental regulatory review times in Canada under the act.
"Assessments can be timely as long as regulators have the resources needed to do the job well," says Minns. "But recent layoffs in the federal sector have drastically reduced the number of reviewers, which has been identified as the cause of regulatory delays for large scale projects such as the Enbridge Gateway Pipeline."
The researchers offer three recommendations to replace the latest attempt at restricting environmental oversight:
"Governments should recognize that environmental oversight is a necessary and valuable component of the approval process for development projects, and that alternate options exist for managing the submission load aside from weakening environmental prot
|Contact: Jenny Ryan|
Canadian Science Publishing (NRC Research Press)