The Environmental Assessment Process
Major projects in B.C. are assessed for potentially significant adverse environmental, social, economic, health and heritage effects by the Environmental Assessment Office (the EAO), as required by the Environmental Assessment Act. The company building the project (the proponent) provides details on what they believe to be the potential adverse effects of the project, and how they mitigate those effects. The EAO then seeks input from Scientific Professionals, Indigenous groups, the public, local governments, and federal and provincial agencies to help ensure that no adverse effects are missed.
There are three stages in an environmental assessment: pre-application, application review and the decision stage. After the application review stage, provincial ministers may issue an environmental assessment certificate, allowing the proposed project to proceed to further permitting specific to the industry of the project. The infographic below sets out the key steps within each of three stages of a typical environmental assessment.
The purpose of the pre-application stage is to ensure that the Environmental Assessment Office has all the information it needs to make a complete and thorough environmental assessment.
There are no time limits in the pre-application phase until the proponent submits an application for an environmental assessment certificate to the EAO. The EAO then has 30 days to confirm whether it contains the information necessary to initiate the application review phase.
Application Review Phase
During the application review stage, the application is provided to a technical working group and Indigenous groups for review and comment. It is also made publicly available for review and comment, and the comments received during a public comment period are posted on the Environmental Assessment Office's website.
Based on the feedback from Indigenous Groups, the technical working group and the public, the EAO works with the proponent and interested parties to resolve outstanding concerns, wherever possible. The Prescribed Time Limits Regulation requires that the application review must be completed within 180 days. The EAO can extend this timeframe if requested by the proponent, or if additional information is required to complete the environmental assessment.
Upon completion of the application review stage, the Environmental Assessment Office provides an assessment report and recommendations to the Minister of Environment & Climate Change Strategy and Minister responsible for the project sector. For example, the decision on a proposed mine would be made by the Minister of Environment & Climate Change Strategy and the Minister of Energy, Mines & Petroleum Resources.
After the ministers receive this package, they have 45 days in which to make a decision. When making their decision, the Minsters have three options:
- Issue an environmental assessment certificate with any conditions they consider necessary;
- Refuse to issue the certificate; or
- Require further study or assessment.
Detailed information about the environmental assessment process, including what projects require an environmental assessment, is available in the EAO User Guide (PDF).