Environmental Assessment – Federal & Provincial


The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012) came into force in July, 2012 and completely replaces the former Act. Project screening assessments, required under the former CEAA Act, are no longer required under the new Act and only projects meeting the requirements as set out in the Regulations Defining Physical Activities (CEAA 2012).

The specific Regulations Defining Physical Activities relevant to highway projects are: 1(h), 17(i) and 28(b)

If a highway project or gravel operation meets the above threshold(s) and/or criteria, then a description of the project must be provided to CEAA (for specifics on this please see – Prescribed Information for the Description of a Designated Project Regulations) once received CEAA will have 45 days to determine if a federal environmental assessment is required.

Other notable changes in CEAA 2012 include:

  1. A final environmental assessment decision must be made by the Agency on or before 365 days from the commencement of the assessment by the Agency
  2. An opportunity for public participation is provided during all environmental assessments
  3. Follow-up programs are mandatory after all environmental assessments
  4. For projects on federal lands that are not designated projects, CEAA 2012 requires that before federal authorities make any decision that would allow a project to proceed, they must determine whether a project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects

When a project is subject to both the BCEAA and the CEAA environmental assessment regimes, the process can be coordinated in accordance with the Canada-British Columbia Environmental Assessment Cooperation Agreement.

Statute: Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012

Relevant Section or Regulation: Regulations Defining Physical Activities CEAA 2012

Regulating Agency: Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency


B.C.'s Environmental Assessment Office coordinates the impact assessment and review of certain major projects as required under the Environmental Assessment Act. Part 8 of the Reviewable Projects Regulation defines the types of planned public highway projects that are subject to review under the Act. They include:

  • 20 or more continuous km of new 2-or-more lane paved public highway
  • The addition of 2-or-more lanes of paved public highway to an existing paved highway over a continuous distance of 20 km or more.

Part 5 of the Reviewable Projects Regulation defines Water Management Projects, including shoreline modification work, that are reviewable under the Act. Shoreline modification work could potentially be part of the scope of work of a major transportation project, thus making the project reviewable under the Act. This includes, but is not limited to works that result in changes in or about a stream, marine coastline or estuary and result in physical disturbance of 1,000 m or more of linear shoreline or 2 hectares or more of foreshore or submerged land, or a combination of foreshore and submerged land, below the natural boundary of a stream, marine coastline or estuary. Under Section 7 of the Act, a proponent can request that the project be designated “reviewable” and that the Environmental Assessment Office manage the assessment despite the project not otherwise being reviewable under the Act.

StatuteEnvironmental Assessment Act, 2002

Relevant Section or Regulation:

Regulating AgencyMinistry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy