Frequently Asked Questions about Environmental Assessments

  1. General Questions about Environmental Assessments in British Columbia
  2. Questions about Environmental Assessment Revitalization and the Environmental Assessment Act (2018)

  3. Questions about Transition Provisions under the Environmental Assessment Act (2018)

1. General Questions about Environmental Assessments in British Columbia


What is an Environmental Assessment?

B.C.'s environmental assessment (EA) process provides a mechanism for reviewing major projects to assess their potential effects. In order for a major project to proceed, an EA must be completed successfully and the proposed project must be approved by two provincial government Ministers.

The EA process addresses a broad range of environmental, economic, social, health and cultural (heritage in lieu of cultural under the 2002 Act) issues through a single, integrated process. It ensures that the issues and concerns of all interested parties and Indigenous nations are considered together, and that a project, if it is to proceed, will do so in a sustainable manner.


What does it mean if a project is 'inactive'?

If a proponent has temporarily stopped collecting information, holding meetings or preparing documents to advance an environmental assessment (EA), such that no Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) staff time has been required on the file for a period of 26 weeks, it is considered inactive.

A project may be inactive if the proponent has not been able to resolve problems to the satisfaction of the EAO and government agencies. In other cases, a project may be inactive due to the proponent's internal corporate reasons, such as changing corporate priorities, depressed market conditions, an inability to finance the project, or a combination of economic and technical factors.


Why are so few projects refused an Environmental Assessment Certificate?

The environmental assessment (EA) of a proposed Project is an iterative process where the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) and the Technical Advisory Committee provide regular feedback to the proponent regarding their Application. The intent is to address all issues satisfactorily such that there are no residual adverse impacts that would prevent an EA certificate from being issued. In most cases, this is achieved in the EA process.

If any issues remain outstanding or are not being addressed satisfactorily, EAO will inform the proponent and work with them to find satisfactory solutions. This may lead to a project becoming inactive while the proponent considers if a solution can be found to an outstanding issue. EAO would not normally refer a proposed project to ministers for a decision with outstanding issues. In response to any project application referral, ministers can choose to issue an EA certificate or refuse to issue an EA certificate.

In other words, projects that would typically not be issued a certificate seldom get to the point where their application is refused.


What is the B.C. Environmental Assessment Act?

The B.C. environmental Assessment Act (the Act) is the legal framework for the province's environmental assessment process for proposed major projects. The Act is supported by several regulations, including the Reviewable Projects Regulation, as well as a variety of policy, procedure and technical guidelines. A new Environmental Assessment Act was brought into force in December, 2019, that also brings a new set of supporting regulations. For more details on both Acts, see the Act, Regulations and Agreements page


What kind of major projects are assessed by the Environmental Assessment Office?

The kinds of Major Projects that the Environmental Assessment Office could assess include the following:

  • Industrial Projects: chemical manufacturing, primary metal and forest product industries; 
  • Energy Projects: power plants, electric transmission lines, natural gas processing or storage plants and transmission pipelines; 
  • Mine Projects: coal and mineral mines, sand and gravel pits, placer mineral mines, construction stone and industrial mineral quarries and off-shore mines; 
  • Water Management Projects: water diversions, dams, dykes, groundwater extraction; 
  • Waste Management Projects: special waste facilities, local government solid and liquid waste management facilities; 
  • Transportation Projects: large public highway and railway, large ferry terminal and marine ports; 
  • Tourist Destination Resort Projects: large golf, marine, and ski hill destination resorts.  

For more details, see the Reviewable Projects Regulation.


What determines if a project will be reviewed?

There are three ways a project can be deemed reviewable:

  • The Reviewable Projects Regulation (RPR) provides for a broad range of major projects to be automatically reviewable if they equal or exceed relevant measurable thresholds, such as production volume, storage capacity, area of disturbance, etc., which are set out in the regulation. Most major projects become reviewable based on this regulation. Projects triggering these thresholds are generally those with a higher potential for environmental impacts. 
  • Ministerial Designation by the Minister of Environment who has the authority to designate projects to be reviewed, which are not automatically reviewable under the RPR. The Minister will may make such a designation if: 
    • the Minister believes the project may have a significant adverse environmental, economic, social, cultural or health effect, and that the designation is in the public interest; and 
    • if the project has not been substantially started at the time of designation.
  • Proponent "Opt In" is available in cases where projects are not automatically reviewable, but a proponent sees advantages in a formal environmental assessment review, such as a "one window" contact point with government or the ability to demonstrate the sustainability of their project. 

For more information, see the Reviewable Project Regulation Interpretation Guide. 


Can a member of the public request that a project be reviewed?

A member of the public may apply for the Minister of Environment to designate a project as reviewable. The Minister may make such a designation if:

  • The Minister believes the project may have a significant adverse environmental, economic, social, cultural or health effect, and that the designation is in the public interest; and 
  • if the project has not been substantially started at the time of designation. 

What happens when both federal and provincial environmental assessments are required?

When a project falls under both provincial and federal environmental assessment responsibility, there is an agreement in place which ensures that the two governments will carry out a single, cooperative environmental assessment while retaining their respective decision-making powers. This means Provincial and Federal ministers make independent decisions on whether to issue an Environmental Assessment Certificate from a single report. This is called Substitution.

This one project, one assessment approach saves considerable time, money and resources for both governments, proponents, and those being consulted in the EA process, such as Indigenous groups, stakeholders, and the public. 


How is an environmental assessment conducted in B.C.?

For details on the environmental assessment process – please see the environmental assessment process page.  


Why is the Process Order important?

The Process Order is important as it identifies the issues to be addressed and the information to be provided by the proponent as part of their Environmental Assessment (EA) application, and how the EA wil be conducted. Process Orders indicate the baseline studies needed to describe the project's environmental, economic, social, health and cultural setting, the predicted impacts on the setting, and the proposed measures to reduce, avoid or manage those impacts. The government decision on whether to issue an EA certificate focuses on how effectively the application has addressed the issues identified in the Process Order. 


What public consultation occurs in the environmental assessment process?

Under the 2002 Environmental Assessment Act, the Public Consultation Policy Regulation sets out standards for public consultation. At a minimum there must be at least one formal public comment period during a review. Generally, there are two formal public comment periods, although some reviews have more than two. In all cases, public notice must be given at least seven days before the start of a formal public comment period. Public notice is generally given by newspaper advertisements, but can also include radio advertising or local postering.

Under the 2018 Environmental Assessment Act, there are four mandatory public engagement periods, including during a new Early Engagement phase, which provides an opportunity for all Environmental Assessment participants to better understand the project and establish a foundation for the rest of the Environmental Assessment (EA). Early Engagement is an important preparatory phase where meaningful conversations among participants begin about the proposed project to identify engagement approaches, potential interests, issues, and concerns early in the EA process and chart a path for resolution.

The new Public Engagement Policy (available early 2020) provides for a variety of new innovative public engagement approaches to better meet the needs of the public. Details are coming soon.


What happens if important new information or concerns come to light late in the Environmental Assessment process?

The Environmental Assessment Office has the ability to change the scope of an environmental Assessment and will do so - where warranted - to ensure the application is as complete as possible.  


What opportunity does the public have to participate in the environmental assessment process?

The B.C. environmental assessment process invites public involvement in a number of different ways:

  • There is public notification of key consultation events; 
  • The public is able to access information through the EAO Project Information & Collaboration (EPIC) application; and, 
  • There are formal public comment periods on specific documents that may include open houses or other tailored engagement opportunities in potentially affected communities.  

Does the environmental assessment look at alternatives to proposals?

The Environmental Assessment Act only requires the review of the project that is submitted. The environmental assessment process must alternative means of carrying out the project that are technically and economically feasible, including through the use of the best available technologies, and the potential effects, risks and uncertainties of those alternatives, during the application review stage, as set out in the required assessment matters - s25 of the Act. For example, the Environmental Assessment Office may assess alternative locations for facilities, for housing the workforce, alternative processing methods for producing the end product, or alternative approaches to constructing or operating the project.  


What information do ministers consider in making their decision about issuing an Environmental Assessment Certificate?

Under the 2002 or 2018 Environmental Assessment Act, the Environmental Assessment Office provides Ministers with an assessment report that presents the findings of the project assessment, and accompanies the report with its recommendations and draft Environmental Assessment Certificate (with conditions).

In addition, Ministers may consider any other matters that in their view are relevant to the public interest in making their decision, such as broader government objectives for the environment, the economy or social and community well-being.

Under the 2018 Environmental Assessment Act, Ministers must also consider the following information:

  • Recommendations respecting whether the project is consistent with the promotion of sustainability;
  • Notice of participating Indigenous nations consent or lack of consent; and,
  • Arrangements reached (if any) with participating Indigenous nations.

How long do Ministers have to review applications?

Under the 2002 Environmental Assessment Act, the Prescribed Time Limits Regulation sets a time limit of 45 days from the date of referral to Ministers for them to make a decision on whether or not to certify a project. If Ministers decide that more time is needed, an order may be issued to extend the time limit.

Under the 2018 Environmental Assessment Act, Ministers have 30 days to make a decision.  If Ministers decide that more time is needed, an order may be issued to extend the time limit.


Why are time limits set under the Environmental Assessment Act?

Time limits provide a more predictable process and greater certainty to all Environmental Assessment participants.

The 2002 Environmental Assessment Act provides for time limits to be imposed on key steps in the environmental assessment process in two ways:

Legislated Timelines: Set in the regulations (the Prescribed Time Limits Regulation, the Concurrent Approval Regulation and the Public Consultation Policy Regulation); and 
Project-Specific Timelines: Set in the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) procedural orders for steps not subject to legislated timelines. 
Timelines may be applied to both government and proponents. The Minister of Environment or the EAO may extend any time limit set under BCEAA, even if that time limit has already expired. All timelines expressed in days refer to calendar days (not working days).  

The 2018 Environmental Assessment Act sets out legislated timelines for the process, as shown in this graphic.


Why do time limits sometimes get suspended or extended?

Under the 2002 Environmental Assessment Act, the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) may suspend or extend a time limit during the application review, for one of the following reasons:

  • The proponent requests a delay of the application review (most common reason for suspension); 
  • The EAO requires the proponent to provide more information, and it is the opinion of EAO staff that the request warrants additional time; or 
  • A required action has not been taken by a proponent, prompting the EAO to suspend the prescribed time limit for application review.
  • The Minister of Environment may also suspend a time limit to await the outcome of any investigation, inquiry, hearing or other process that the Minister considers relevant to the project review.

We are aware that having two different tools to provide extra time during an EA has been confusing. Under the 2018 Environmental Assessment Act, the EAO will only use time limit extensions to provide for more additional time during an EA. Time limit suspensions will only be applied in the case where the Minister is awaiting the outcome of any investigation, inquiry, hearing or other process that the Minister considers relevant to the project review.


If an Environmental Assessment Certificate is issued, does it mean that the project can go ahead?

When a project is issued an Environmental Assessment (EA) certificate, the proponent still needs to obtain a variety of other provincial, federal and local government statutory authorizations (e.g., permits, licenses, land use by-law approvals, etc.) to construct and operate the project. Applications for required approvals may be made by proponents while the EA review is still in progress, but such approvals cannot be granted until after an EA certificate has been issued. 


How long does an Environmental Assessment Certificate last?

Under the 2002 Environmental Assessment Act, an EA certificate remains in effect for the life of the project, unless suspended or cancelled by the Minister of Environment for reasons of non-compliance with the Environmental Assessment Act. All certificates also contain a deadline of between three and five years from the date of issuance for the project to be "substantially started". If substantive project development has not begun by this deadline, the holder of the certificate can apply for one extension of the deadline for up to five more years. If the project has still not commenced by the new deadline, the certificate expires. 

Under the 2018 Act, an EA certificate remains in effect for the life of the project, unless suspended or cancelled as noted below. All certificates also contain a deadline of up to ten years from the date of issuance for the project to be "substantially started". If substantive project development has not begun by this deadline, the holder of the certificate can apply for one extension of the deadline for up to five more years. If the project has still not commenced by the new deadline, the certificate expires. 

Certificates can be suspended or cancelled by the Minister of Environment for reasons of non-compliance with the Environmental Assessment Act. Cancellation provisions have been updated to address some other practical realities where certificate cancellation would be an appropriate course of action:

  • On request of a certificate holder; or,
  • If the project is not operational on the 20th anniversary of certificate issuance.

How can the Environmental Assessment Office be sure that approved projects are constructed in compliance with conditions set out in their Environmental Assessment Certificates?

The Environmental Assessment Office's Compliance and Enforcement program ensures that projects are constructed and operated in accordance with their Environmental Assessment Certificates. 


Can a member of the public, local government or interest group appeal a decision made under the Environmental Assessment Act?

There are no formal provisions under the Environmental Assessment Act to appeal a decision.

The option of judicial review through the courts is available to address perceived violations of the Act's legal requirements, including judicial review of the manner in which Ministers' certification decisions or the Environmental Assessment Office's administrative decisions have been made.


2. Questions about Environmental Assessment Revitalization and the Environmental Assessment Act (2018)


Why is B.C.’s environmental assessment process changing?

We’re revitalizing B.C.’s environmental assessment process to ensure the legal rights of First Nations are respected and the public’s expectation of a strong, transparent process is met.

The Province of British Columbia has committed to the full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration), the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRC) Calls to Action and the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Tsilhqot’in v. B.C., and to reviewing its policies, programs and laws to bring these commitments into action.
Revitalizing the Environmental Assessment (EA) process presents an opportunity to develop a new legal framework and to make organizational shifts based on recognition of Indigenous title, rights and jurisdiction, treaty rights, and the legal pluralism that exists in Canada. Doing so has the potential to increase process certainty, the durability of decisions, and result in resilient outcomes for all EA participants.


What is EA revitalization focused on?

Enhancing public confidence: ensuring impacted Indigenous nations, local communities and governments, and the broader public can meaningfully participate in all stages of environmental assessment through a process that is robust, transparent, timely and predictable;

Advancing reconciliation with First Nations; and,

Protecting the environment while offering clear pathways to sustainable project approvals by providing certainty of process and clarity of regulatory considerations including opportunities for early indications of the likelihood of success.


How can I participate in EA revitalization?

Now that the new legislation has passed, the Environmental Assessment Office is developing the regulations and policies that will fill in additional details. We’ll be engaging the public, Indigenous nations, industry and stakeholders on key policies and regulations as they’re developed to make sure we continue to put forward practical solutions informed by feedback from those who are involved in and impacted by the environmental assessment process (for details, check out this infographic). 


What public engagements have occurred so far, and what was the outcome?

For a complete list of the public engagements that have occurred so far, and the results of those engagements, please see the engagement page.


How has public feedback made a difference in the way we engage the public?

The feedback provided in engagement surveys (conducted in summer, 2018 and 2019) has been incredibly important in helping the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) create the policies that will guide engagement with British Columbians under the new act. The EAO is committed to ensuring the public can access information about environmental assessments in a way that is easy to understand, and through a variety of ways that reaches all British Columbians. 
The results of the latest survey and the new public engagement policy will be released in early 2020.


How are organizations, governments and Indigenous nations being engaged in the revitalization process?

Local government, industry, Indigenous Nations, environmental assessment (EA) practitioners, environmental non-governmental organizations and environmental lawyers have been and will continue to be substantially engaged throughout the revitalization process. 

During development of the new Environmental Assessment Act, organizations, governments and Indigenous Nations were represented on the Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee. They also participated in bi-lateral meetings with Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) staff to ensure their concerns were understood and fully considered. Details on the organizations, governments and Indigenous nations that were engaged are available on the Direct Engagements page.   

Organizations, governments, and Indigenous Nations continue to be engaged on the development of regulations and policies through bi-lateral meetings, and representation on the Revitalization Stakeholder Implementation Committee and Indigenous Implementation Committee.


When will Environmental Assessments actually change in B.C.?

The new Environmental Assessment Act came into force on December 16th, 2019. All new projects entering the Environmental Assessment process after that date will do so under the new Act.

Environmental assessments that are already underway will continue under the current process with transition provisions. Additional details on the transition provisions can be found in section 78 of the new Act. 


It sounds like the new process has the potential to add additional layers of red tape to the environmental assessment (EA) process - how will the Province ensure B.C. continues to remain attractive to investment?

A common concern of the current environmental assessment Act is process uncertainty. Addressing this concern is one of our top priorities. 
The new Environmental Assessment Act improves on B.C.’s existing world-leading EA process by more effectively involving Indigenous nations, the public, stakeholders and industry throughout the process. Deeply involving all EA participants early in the process not only builds relationships and trust, it critically surfaces key project concerns early, minimizing the potential for costly project re-designs and delays later in the process. 
The new Act establishes a process to support implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the new process, improving certainty of the EA process and durability of decisions.
A revitalized EA process will be more responsive to proponents’ needs by providing clearer timelines, clarity of the relationship between EAs and permits, and a dispute resolution model to resolve potential conflicts, to name a few.
These changes and others ensure good projects go forward and that B.C. continues to be an attractive destination for investment.


How will the new act support businesses in making investment decisions?

British Columbia welcomes proposals for sustainable development projects, and supports their development through a robust, efficient and predictable regulatory continuum that fosters a sound economy and the well-being of British Columbians and their communities. A revised Reviewable Projects Regulation makes it easier for businesses to determine if their project requires an environmental assessment, supporting business and investment decisions. The new Process Order sets out project specific timelines, information requirements and an issues resolution process – minimizing uncertainty and surprises. 

The new Early Engagement and EA Readiness Decision phases help identify key issues early in the process, so investors can make informed decisions about the future path of the project.


Will the new environmental assessment (EA) process be longer than the current process?

No. The new Act tries to accomplish two things to assist in making the process more timely and predictable:

First, it introduces statutory timelines for a number of phases in the EA process where none exist in the current process, providing greater certainty than the current process.

Second, the addition of a mandatory early engagement phase is expected to increase certainty at later phases in the process and avoid suspensions/requests for more information.


What happens to projects that are already involved with the current environmental assessment process?

For information on projects transitioning between the two acts, please see the Transition page.


How does the revitalized environment assessment process ensure that data and information provided during assessments is accurate and trustworthy?

Throughout every environmental assessment, there are a number of ways to ensure the accuracy and integrity of scientific data and evidence.

During the early engagement phase of the process, key issues are brought forward, potentially including concerns related to information independence. This helps draw the Environmental Assessment Office’s (EAO) attention to areas where integrity of data and information will be of particular interest and subject to scrutiny by interested parties. This enhanced focus can be reflected in the process planning phase.

During the process planning phase, Section 19 of the new Act brings together Indigenous nations, the EAO and the proponent to determine at the outset (with input from communities and the technical advisory committees) what information is required and how it will be collected and analysed.

Collaborative process planning at the outset ensures that all parties can have confidence in the credibility and rigour of the technical information provided and allows enough time for scrutiny. 

New provisions supporting independence in the process plan include:

  • The EAO can require information produced by the proponent be reviewed by a third party – e.g. peer review (19(2)(c)(ii)), in addition to the third party review already conducted by the Technical Advisory Committee
  • Information may be collected by a party other than the proponent (19(2)(c)(iv))
  • Qualifications (including in respect of impartiality) may be established for the above-noted peer reviewers and other parties (section 77(2)(e))

During the Effects Assessment phase, all information is subject to the scrutiny of the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) that provides third party scientific review of data and information. The TAC may include government and non-government experts (section 21)
Experts, mediators and consultants can be retained to provide independent advice to the Chief Executive Assessment Officer (section 26)
All of the data and analysis will, like today, be published on the EAO’s project information centre (EPIC) (section 40).  This includes the analysis in the assessment report and also the technical material provided by experts.


How will sustainability be reflected in the environmental assessment process?

Throughout the Environmental Assessment Office’s (EAO) engagement on Environmental Assessment (EA) Revitalization, we have heard that the promotion of sustainability through EAs is important to British Columbians. 
The new Act contains a defined purpose for the EAO that includes promoting sustainability by protecting the environment and fostering a sound economy and the well-being of British Columbians and their communities.  The Chief Executive Assessment Officer must include a recommendation to the Minister on if the project is consistent with the promotion of sustainability. 
Ministers must consider sustainability in making their decision to issue the project an EA Certificate. The Minister must also consider sustainability in a termination or exemption decision at the EA Readiness Decision phase.
Policy and operational guidance is being developed on how to fully implement the concept of sustainability in EAs. 


What compliance and enforcement changes will the revitalized environmental assessment process introduce and why?

The new environment assessment (EA) process will include a variety of changes that provide a broader, more modern, suite of tools to support compliance. These changes bring the new Act into alignment with other natural resource legislation in British Columbia and will contribute to enhancing public confidence in the Environmental Assessment Office’s (EAO) oversight of certified projects.   
Compliance and enforcement tools introduced by the new Act include:

  • Introduction of authority to issue tickets and administrative monetary penalties to provide the EAO with an enhanced suite of enforcement tools. 
  • Increased range of fines for court-imposed penalties to align with the provincial standard. 
  • Enabling the EAO to enter into agreements with other parties (including Indigenous nations) that can set out how the EAO will work with those organizations on compliance and enforcement activities.

More details are available on the Compliance and Enforcement page.


Why are projects able to be exempted from environmental assessments? Didn't the public and environmental groups call for exemptions to be removed from the Act? 

During the Environmental Assessment Revitalization process, the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) heard some suggestions that exemptions should no longer be an option. In response to what we heard there will be changes to the exemption process under the new Act.
In the same way that the regulation that sets out what projects are reviewable may not capture all projects that should receive an Environmental Assessment (EA), in some cases it may also capture projects that do not warrant an EA because the potential for the project to cause significant adverse effects is very low. 
In the new process, exemptions will only be available after an early engagement process has been conducted, which includes a request for an exemption from a proponent, public engagement, and a thorough review of the request from relevant government agencies, as well as Indigenous nations. 
Exemption decisions under the new Act will now be made by the Minister following a recommendation by the EAO. 

Projects that receive an exemption from a full environmental assessment would remain subject to any other approvals, authorizations or permits required by local, provincial and federal governments. 


How is free, prior and informed consent reflected in the revitalized environmental assessment (EA) process?

The Province is committed to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration) and is bringing the principles of the Declaration into action in the context of environmental assessment as it meets its commitment to revitalize the environmental assessment (EA) process.    
An integral aspect of the UN Declaration is consulting and cooperating in good faith with Indigenous peoples in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent (Article 18). The new EA process is designed to ensure that any decision taken on the question of consent by an Indigenous nation is free, prior and informed. 
Respectful of their own Indigenous laws, traditions and right of self-determination, a key objective of the new EA process is to create the opportunity for Indigenous nations to make a decision on whether they consent to a project. It is an objective that proponents, the Province and Indigenous nations should be working to achieve. The new EA process facilitates that objective throughout the process.      
Free, prior and informed consent is not a veto. A recent report by the United Nations Human Rights Council entitled: Free, prior, and informed consent: a human rights-based approach study of the expert mechanism on the rights of Indigenous Peoples – shares the same view.  

The Act makes it clear that Ministers may decide to issue or withhold an EA certificate, even where that decision is not aligned with the consent decision of an Indigenous nation; however, Ministers must provide reasons for doing so.


What does a consent-based process mean?

A consent-based process as it applies to environmental assessments means: 

  • Indigenous nations have the opportunity to make a decision based on their own laws, traditions and right to self-determination 
  • Minister(s) must legally consider the issue of consent where it has been decided on by Indigenous nations 
  • Minister(s) are required to address consent in their legally required reasons for decision document

Who provides notice of consent on behalf of an Indigenous nation?

During the Environmental Assessment Office’s engagement on Environmental Assessment Revitalization, we heard that, consistent with Article 18 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous nations should have the opportunity to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights. Indigenous nations may participate in these decisions through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, maintaining their own Indigenous decision-making institutions as they see fit, both at the technical level and the political level. 


What does consensus mean?

Consensus within the environmental assessment context represents an outcome that:

  • Is actively supported by all participating Indigenous nations and the EAO; or, 
  • Is not objected to by a participating Indigenous nation, while reserving their right to ultimately indicate their consent or lack of consent for a project after assessment.

What does it mean to seek consensus?

Seeking consensus within the environmental assessment process means cooperation between the Environmental Assessment Office and representatives of participating Indigenous nations to achieve consensus on process decisions or recommendations. Processes that seek consensus:

  • Inform, but are distinct from, a decision by an Indigenous nation to indicate their consent or lack of consent
  • Inform, but are distinct from, a decision by a statutory decision-maker under the Act
  • May be informed by, but are in addition to, Indigenous participation in any Technical Advisory Committee

Who is the Environmental Assessment Office required to seek to achieve consensus with?

During the Environmental Assessment Office’s engagement on Environmental Assessment Revitalization, we heard that, consistent with Article 18 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous nations should have the opportunity to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights. Indigenous nations may participate in these decisions through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, maintaining their own Indigenous decision-making institutions as they see fit, both at the technical level and the political level. 


What was the Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee? How were these members selected?

The Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee was an independent forum that reviewed and made recommendations on B.C.'s current environmental assessment process. The Committee met ten times (over 75 hours) between March and April, 2018 and produced a report with 33 recommendations that seek to be workable for all parties in the environmental assessment process. 
The Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee was co-chaired by Bruce Fraser, an ecologist by training and past chair of both the Forest Practices Board and the Taskforce on Species at Risk; and Lydia Hwitsum, former Chief of the Cowichan Tribes and Chair of the First Nations Health Authority board of directors. 

The Committee included a further 10 members across Indigenous groups, local government, industry, environmental non-governmental organizations, environmental law, impact assessors and planners, and provided an independent analysis of B.C.’s current environmental assessment process, and opportunities for improvement. 

Committee members were invited based on their experience and expertise, representing a broad spectrum of experts who engage with environmental assessments. 

More information on the Committee can be found here.


What is the Revitalization Stakeholder Implementation Committee? How were members selected?

The Committee is an independent forum that reviews and makes recommendations on draft policies and regulations to support the new Environmental Assessment Act. Chaired by the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO), the Committee is comprised of representatives from a diverse selection of experienced environmental assessment (EA) participants to ensure a broad representation of perspectives on policies and regulations. Membership represents a cross section of industry, environmental non-governmental organizations, EA practitioners, local government, labour and former members of the Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee.
Committee members were invited based on their experience and expertise, representing a broad spectrum of experts who engage with environmental assessments. 
The Committee held their first meeting in April, 2019, and is anticipated to provide feedback on policies and regulations until they are finalized and the new Act is in force.

For a list of committee members, please see the Implementation Committee page.


What is the Revitalization Indigenous Implementation Committee? How were the members selected?

The Committee is an independent forum that reviews and makes recommendations from an Indigenous perspective on draft policies and regulations to support the new Environmental Assessment Act. The Committee is co-chaired by the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) and a representative selected by the committee members (currently Ang Smith, who took over the role from Bob Chamberlain). The Committee is comprised of 14 committee members with relevant professional and personal expertise and experience representing a broad range of interests related to the environmental assessment process and regions of the province. Committee members are providing their personal perspectives and experiences within an environmental assessment context, and do not represent the position or opinions of any Indigenous nation or organization to which they may belong. Three members were nominated by the First Nations Leadership Council, and the other members were selected following a broad expression of interest process provided to all Indigenous nations in B.C. 
The committee first met in June, 2019, and is anticipated to provide feedback on policies and regulations until they are finalized and the new Act is in force.

For a list of committee members, please see the Implementation Committee page.


How does the Professional Governance Act intersect with the new Environmental Assessment Act?

Government’s review of Professional Reliance made recommendations on improving the professional reliance model broadly, which informed development and introduction of Bill 49 – The B.C. Professional Governance Act on October 22nd, 2018. 
While environmental assessments (EA) do not follow a professional reliance model (as the proponent’s work is reviewed independently during the EA), the Environmental Assessment Office is working diligently with its government colleagues to determine the applicability of the new Professional Governance Act to B.C.’s EA process. 


How does Environmental Assessment revitalization reflect land use plans?

Land use planning can provide an important input into environmental assessments. 
The revitalized environmental assessment process ensures that any relevant land use plan of the province, local government, or an Indigenous nation is considered. 

The Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development has been mandated to modernize land use planning, and any changes resulting from that modernization will be reflected in the revitalized environmental assessment process. 


How does the proposed new process address climate change?

The revitalized environmental assessment (EA) process has mandatory assessment considerations, including an assessment of the impact of a project on B.C.’s greenhouse gas reduction targets.
Considering climate change and greenhouse gas emissions is not new to the EA process. The Environmental Assessment Office continues to build on current practice to ensure this important issue is appropriated considered in project-specific EAs.


Will Ministers continue to have the final say on whether or not to issue an environmental assessment certificate?

Yes. The provincial decision on whether to issue an environmental assessment certificate will continue to be made by two elected Ministers and will be informed by the best available science and Indigenous knowledge obtained during the environmental assessment (EA), and prescribed decision-making factors set out in legislation.

It is anticipated that participating Indigenous nations in the EA will also choose to make a decision on whether the project should receive a certificate. Ministers must take these decisions into consideration and provide reasons if their decision does not align with the decision of participating Indigenous nations.
Fair, transparent, timely, resilient decisions are essential at the end of an EA process. Decisions need to be founded in the robust assessment that was just completed, reflect public interest, and respect the decision making of Indigenous groups. Recognition of Indigenous groups’ decisions is a key aspect of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and government’s commitments to reconciliation. 

By legislating required matters for consideration in decision-making, the EA process becomes more transparent, giving all parties confidence that the things that matter to them will be considered.


What are the next steps in revitalizing B.C.'s environmental assessment process?

Although the new Environmental Assessment Act is now in force, there are a number of regulations and policies that still need to be developed, and we’re engaging the public, Indigenous nations, industry and stakeholders on key policies and regulations as they’re developed to make sure we continue to put forward practical solutions informed by feedback from those who are involved in and impacted by the environmental assessment process. 


Are changes needed to the new Act with the introduction of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act?

The proposed Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA) sets out a framework to ensure the laws of B.C. uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples. It is a tool for bringing rules, transparency and accountability when the province works with Indigenous governments, business and local governments on decisions affecting their rights.

As a foundational principle, the new Environmental Assessment Act, 2018 (EAA), was developed with the goal of advancing reconciliation with First Nations. This included significant collaboration with Indigenous nations from the start of the Act’s development. In fact, the new EAA was the first in B.C. to support the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

As the new EAA already supports the implementation of the UN Declaration, it is in alignment with the proposed DRIPA, and no subsequent changes are considered necessary to the EAA should DRIPA become law.

For more information on how the new Act supports the implementation of the UN Declaration with respect to Free, Prior and Informed Consent, please see this graphic. 


3. Questions about Transition Provisions under the Environmental Assessment Act (2018)


When will the new environmental assessment process under the new Environmental Assessment Act actually begin being used?

The new Environmental Assessment Act came into force on December 16th, 2019. All new projects entering the Environmental Assessment process after that date will do so under the new Act.

Environmental assessments that are already underway will continue under the current process with transition provisions. Additional details on the transition provisions can be found in section 78 of the new Act. 


How can I better understand what the new Environmental Assessment Act means for my project?

The Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) is reaching out to proponents and will continue to do so leading up to implementation of the new environmental assessment process. Proponents should contact their EAO Project Lead or the Sector Executive Project Director if they have any additional questions.


What will happen if my project does not yet have a Section 11 Order at the time the new Environmental Assessment Act is brought into force?

If your Project does not yet have a Section 11 Order (establishing the formal scope, procedures and methods for the environmental assessment), at the time the new Act is brought into force, your project will be considered under the new Act in the Early Engagement phase, as set out in the Environmental Assessment Transition Regulation.

As set out in section 78(10) of the new Act, a Project Description filed under the old Act may be accepted in partial or fulfillment of the Initial Project Description under the new Act. Your first action will be to contact your Project Lead or the Sector Executive Project Director to determine the specific path forward for your project.


What will happen if I have a Section 11 Order at the time the new Environmental Assessment Act is brought into force?

If you have established the formal scope, procedures and methods for the environmental assessment (EA), you will have six months from the date the new Act is brought into force to file notice with the Project Lead at the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) that you wish to continue under the current Act. If you choose this option, you must complete the EA process within three years.

If you elect not to continue under the current Environmental Assessment Act, or if the EA is not complete within three years, the EA must be completed under the new Act. The EAO will transition your project to be considered under the new Act through an order that:

  • Specifies the step in the new EA process to which the project must proceed; or
  • Varies the EA process to the extent necessary to accommodate the assessment under the new Act

What if the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) is reviewing my project application at the time the new Environmental Assessment Act comes into force?

You will have six months from the date the Act is brought into force to file notice with the EAO that you wish to continue under the current Environmental Assessment Act.

If you are issued an environmental assessment certificate, the project will be subject to the new Act with respect to amendments, compliance and enforcement and post certificate administration provisions.


What will happen if I have an amendment or exemption application in progress when the new Environmental Assessment Act comes into force?

Amendments and exemption applications already made under the current Environmental Assessment Act will proceed under the Environmental Assessment Act, 2002.


What will happen if I would like to submit an amendment on my project that already has an environmental assessment certificate (EAC) after the new Environmental Assessment Act comes into force?

Any project with an existing EAC will be subject to the new Act with respect to amendments.


I plan to submit an exemption application once the new Environmental Assessment Act (the new Act) comes into force. What should I be doing to prepare now?

Information requirements for exemptions under the new Act will be very similar to the current requirements, so follow the current guidance in your preparations. Proponents applying for exemptions under the new Act will have to undertake the Early Engagement phase of the assessment, and the exemption decision will be made by the Minister rather than the Chief Executive Assessment Officer. More information on early engagement will be made available in the fall on the Environmental Assessment Office’s website. If you have additional questions, contact the Project Lead or Sector Executive Project Director.


What will happen if I want to withdraw my project from the environmental assessment (EA) process before the new Environmental Assessment Act comes into force and then pursue it later?

You will be required to start the EA process over, subject to the new Environmental Assessment Act. Your first action will be to submit an Initial Project Description and engagement plan as part of the Early Engagement phase. The Environmental Assessment Office will work with you to determine what work already completed under the withdrawn EA is still relevant and could be carried over to the new EA under the new Act.


How will the new Act apply to me if I already have an environmental assessment certificate (EAC) or exemption Order?

Any project with an existing EAC or exemption Order will be subject to the new Environmental Assessment Act with respect to amendments, compliance and enforcement and post certificate administration provisions. All other original requirements of the certificate remain in force.


I already have an environmental assessment certificate (EAC) and my project is under construction. When does it need to be substantially started?

The certificate will expire if the project is not substantially started by the date indicated on your project’s EAC.


My project is substantially started. Can the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) cancel my existing environmental assessment certificate (EAC) under the new Act?

The EAC may be cancelled if the project is not operational on the 20th anniversary of the issuance of the EAC, or on the 5th anniversary of the new Act coming into force, whichever is later. The EAO may also amend or attach new conditions to your certificate at this time.


What happens under the new Environmental Assessment Act if I sell my project with an environmental assessment certificate (EAC) to another entity?

If you intend to sell your project with an EAC, the certificate transfer provision in the new Act will replace any individual conditions on existing certificates related to transfer procedures. This will provide for operational efficiency of all certificates being subject to the same transfer provision. You would need to apply to the Chief Executive Assessment Officer to transfer your EAC to a new EAC holder.


What are the benefits of beginning an environmental assessment (EA) under the new Environmental Assessment Act?

The new Act provides greater certainty and predictability of process to proponents. Some examples are:

  • Makes use of new mechanisms such as dispute resolution facilitation, and process steps such as early engagement and readiness decision. These process steps are intended to identify key project issues early, to inform approaches to developing the project and charting paths for resolution of issues during an (EA).
  • Earlier indication of the likelihood of success, allowing proponents to make informed decisions about proceeding with the EA process.
  • Regulatory costs are known at the outset, including capacity funding for Indigenous nations.
  • The new Process Order sets out project specific timelines, information requirements and issues resolution process.
  • Option of a more collaborative, staged approach to the development of an Application improves quality of the Application and reduces the need for information requests and subsequent delay.
  • Increased certainty during the Effects Assessment phase provided through earlier process phases of consensus building and issues resolution.
  • Increased initial environmental assessment certificate (EAC) duration of a maximum of ten years, with the potential to extend the EAC an additional five years.
  • More efficient transition to subsequent permitting processes (if an EAC is issued), with clear handoff of issues to be further addressed in permitting.
  • Strong signal to Indigenous nations and stakeholders that a collaborative approach is supported and that there is a desire to meet the most up to date review requirements.
  • Opportunity to build social license through meaningful public engagement in the new EA process.
  • Avoid potential to have to change EA processes in future if the project is delayed, or be well positioned to understand new EA process for future projects.
  • Benefit from an updated cooperation agreement with the federal government that supports one project, one assessment.

For more information, contact your Project Lead or Sector Executive Project Director.

For contact information please visit https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/natural-resource-stewardship/environmental-assessments/contact-us