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LETTER: Environment minister responds to Atamanenko's criticisms

Contributor
By Contributor
June 12th, 2010

Dear Editor,

I would like to clarify for your readers the facts regarding statements that Mr. Alex Atamenenko made is his opinion piece on June 9.

It is important for Canadians to understand that the Budget bill will not change the fundamentals of environmental assessment. These changes are about process in order to remove excessive and unnecessary red tape that does not improve environmental outcomes. The requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act will continue to be met, including public participation and participant funding, and major projects will continue to be assessed.

The infrastructure exclusions are not new; they have been in place through regulation since last year. Experience has shown that any adverse environmental effects resulting from these projects are negligible. Nevertheless, additional protection has been incorporated into the amendments we propose, giving the Minister of the Environment the authority to require even a routine public infrastructure project to undergo an environmental assessment if there is any possibility that it may cause significant adverse environmental effects.

The Budget bill does not give any new authority to the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for the conduct of environmental assessments – they are already responsible for conducting environmental assessments and will continue to do so for projects under their respective jurisdictions. What is new is the fact that both the NEB and the CNSC will have authority to establish participant funding programs to support timely and meaningful engagement of the public, stakeholders and Aboriginal peoples in the review of projects. This includes projects such as interprovincial and international pipelines and power lines and new nuclear plants. These organizations are not responsible for the environmental assessments of oil sands projects as Mr. Atamanenko stated.

Political opponents can spout their theories, but the fact remains that the changes this government proposes will deliver high-quality environmental assessments in a more effective way.  These changes will simplify and streamline the way we deliver environmental assessments in Canada and they will allow assessments to start sooner, reduce delays and duplication, and result in better assessments overall.

Canadians can rest assured that this Government is fully engaged in protecting the environment and is taking an approach which is in the best interests of us all.

(signed),
The Honourable Jim Prentice, P.C., Q.C., M.P. Minister of the Environment

Categories: Op/Ed

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