(Quebec) The federal government chooses the shortest process for the environmental assessment of the expansion project of the Port of Québec and thus sets the final nail in the coffin of a joint committee with Quebec.
Canada’s environment minister had 60 days after the notice of commencement of the environmental assessment by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA), on August 10, to give a mandate to a review panel. He did not and will not do it, did you confirmed.
The review board comprised of independent experts appointed by the Minister based on “their knowledge, experience and expertise.” Members are required impartiality and must not be in conflict of interest. They have 24 months to study the draft, public hearings – mandatory – and produce a report including recommendations and mitigation measures. Throughout, they may summon witnesses for evidence and supporting documents.
The Minister refers to a commission if he anticipates significant environmental effects if it considers that it is in the public interest or whether the assessment should be done jointly with another authority or government. The Canada-Quebec Agreement on cooperation on environmental assessment lays the foundation of a joint commission with the Office of public hearings on the environment (BAPE). The formula has been used many times in the past but will not be this time.
“In the case of the development of a multifunctional deep water dock in the port of Quebec – Beauport 2020, the project will not be referred to a review panel. The assessment conducted by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency will give an opportunity to work in Quebec in the process as a member of the working group for this project, “says Christian Vezeau, operational communications manager for the CEA Agency, in a email Soleil.
The standard environmental assessment is carried out by officials within 12 months, a period which always excludes the response time of the promoter. The technical working group includes representatives from several ministries (and here the Government of Quebec) who study the documents submitted by the developer and ask him questions.
The public is invited to comment on the project, but the form of consultation can vary from call for comments at public meetings. Citizens also have the opportunity to comment on the interim report of the CEAA, which is not possible with a commission.
“The process of the Agency will provide more opportunities for stakeholders to participate and comment on the analysis of potential environmental effects and how best to prevent or manage these potential impacts,” says Mr. Vezeau.
During a first phase of consultation on the guidelines for the environmental impact study, concluded September 9, a dozen organizations – on 23 is being expressed – have demanded the holding of a commission of examination. In the lot, several environmental groups, neighborhood council and the Vigilance Committee of port activities chaired by Councillor Suzanne Verreault. They saw an opportunity to make the grand tour of the matter and a guarantee of independence.
The Port, he did not hide that he preferred the shorter process, but was prepared to live with the decision of the CEAA. Marie-Andrée Blanchet, spokesman for the Quebec Port Authority, has also not comment Saturday, saying simply “taking note” of the choice of the federal minister.
It was impossible to get a reaction from the Quebec Minister of the Environment, David Heurtel. Having hammered the expansion of the Port project in the Beauport sector would be submitted to the BAPE, the provincial government agreed this summer to entrust the federal environmental assessment of the proposed expansion.
“The Minister is satisfied with the agreement, because it will allow the Quebec government to participate in a process that is independent and collaborative, and highlight the concerns of the people of Quebec,” argued Mr. Heurtel by voice his press secretary, William Bérubé.
Several critics have followed. Nature Québec even examine the possibility of transferring the case to the courts, as it considers that the Quebec government “abandon” its environmental skills.