Today in Canada’s House of Commons, lawmakers debated a budget bill that critics say would gut a variety of environmental and species protection measures.
The Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act would allow the Conservative-led government to implement certain provisions included in the 2012 budget tabled just over a month ago (see ‘Canadian budget hits basic science‘). But the 420-page document includes “other measures,” which have angered the opposition, environmental groups and scientists.
Bill C-38 aims to repeal the current Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, a federal law that promotes sustainable development, and rewrites the role of the National Energy Board, an independent agency that regulates the construction and operation of oil and natural gas pipelines that traverse provincial or international borders. The bill also relieves Canada from its duties under the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act.
The government says changes to the CEAA and NEB are necessary to streamline the environmental assessment process, make sure projects are reviewed in a timely manner and reduce duplicate assessments.
The changes to the NEB would limit project reviews to two years, in an effort to avoid a repeat of the six-year review of the 1,200-kilometre long Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline that was finally approved in 2010. It would also give cabinet the final say on whether a project is approved. “In the past, there wasn’t a direct provision for the cabinet to overrule the decision and send it back for further review,” says Andrew Leach, an environmental economist at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton.