Canada Establishes Impact Assessment Agency, Reforms National Energy Board

Proposed Legislation Would Establish Impact Assessment Agency

The Government of Canada has put forward new legislation proposing significant changes to environmental assessment rules. The federal government announced that it will introduce new rules for the review of major natural resource projects, with emphasis on decisions guided by science, evidence and Indigenous traditional knowledge. A Government of Canada Handbook provides details on a number of the proposed changes, which include:​

  • Reforming the legislative framework for environmental assessments by replacing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 with the Impact Assessment Act and broadening the scope of assessment to include health, social and economic impacts, impacts on Indigenous Peoples, and gender-based analysis.

  • Establishing the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (the "IAA") to replace the existing Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and lead all federal reviews of major projects, and work with other bodies, including the new CER, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and Offshore Boards, in cooperation with provinces and territories and Indigenous jurisdictions.

  • Increased public participation in project reviews, including a new early engagement phase and early recognition of Indigenous rights.

  • Transparent decisions based on science and Indigenous traditional knowledge.

  • More timely completion of major project reviews.

  • Amending the Fisheries Act to restore lost protections for all fish and fish habitats and replacing the Navigation Protection Act with the Canadian Navigable Waters Act to better protect the right to travel on all navigable waters in Canada, with extra protections for those waterways important to Canadians and Indigenous Peoples.

  • Investment of up to $1.01 billion over five years to support:

  • the proposed new impact assessment regime and the Canadian Energy Regulator;

  • increased scientific capacity in federal departments and agencies;

  • changes required to protect water, fish, and navigation; and

  • increased Indigenous and public participation.

Bill C-69, which if passed would accomplish many of the changes, was introduced and received its First Reading in the House of Commons yesterday.

Public Consultation on Impact Assessment Regulations

The Government of Canada will receive public comments until April 15, 2018 to inform the approach to developing and/or revising two key environmental assessment regulations:

  • Regulations Designating Physical Activities (the "Project List"): The federal government is conducting public consultation on what type of projects would be subject to impact assessment under the proposed Impact Assessment Act. The government's goal is "to establish clear criteria and a transparent process to periodically review and update the Project List to ensure that projects with the greatest potential to cause effects in areas of federal jurisdiction are assessed."

  • Information Requirements and Time Management Regulations: The federal government is conducting public consultation on regulations prescribing:

  • the information that a project proponent is required to provide to the new IAA at the early planning phase of the potential impacts assessment,

  • the documents that the IAA is required to provide to proponents if it is determined that an impact assessment is required; and

  • the circumstances in which the Minister of Environment and Climate Change could "stop the clock" for the legislated timelines during the impact assessment process.

Proposed Legislation Would Reform National Energy Board

The proposed legislation if passed would also establish the Canadian Energy Regulator (the "CER") and abolish the National Energy Board. The role of the CER would be to regulate the exploitation, development and transportation of energy within federal jurisdiction. The proposed Canadian Energy Regulator Act:

  • provides for the establishment of a Commission that would be responsible for the adjudicative functions of the CER;

  • ensures the safety and security of persons, energy facilities, and abandoned facilities and the protection of property and the environment;

  • provides for the regulation of pipelines, abandoned pipelines, and traffic, tolls and tariffs relating to the transmission of oil or gas through pipelines;

  • provides for the regulation of international power lines and certain interprovincial power lines;

  • provides for the regulation of renewable energy projects and power lines offshore;

  • provides for the regulation of access to lands;

  • provides for the regulation and exportation of oil, gas, and electricity and the interprovincial oil and gas trade; and

  • sets out the process the Commission must follow before making, amending or revoking a declaration of a significant discovery or a commercial discovery under the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act and the process for appealing a decision made by certain officers under that Act.

For further information or for assistance in preparing comments on the proposed legislation and regulations, please contact Lisa DeMarco at

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