Environmental Assessment of Northern Projects
The same process
As mentioned above, the environmental assessment procedures established for northern projects vary according to whether the project is located south or north of the 55th parallel. The commission or committees also vary according to whether the project is provincial or federal in nature. Therefore, there are four distinct procedures possible. However, they all follow the same five-step process.
1. Proponent’s preliminary information
The first step of the process is the proponent’s preliminary information on his project. This step starts from the moment the proponent studies the possible options and the technical, environmental and social aspects of the project before choosing the best options for subsequent studies. The proponent must then send to the Administrator a notice of intent, along with preliminary information on the project. This information concerns in particular the objectives, nature and scope of the project, as well as the various sites being considered or the various possible development alternatives.
The preliminary information is then sent to the committee responsible for defining the nature and extent of the impact study. This committee is either the COMEV, if the project is located south of the 55th parallel, or the KEQC, if the project is located north of the 55 th parallel.
When a project is not automatically subject to nor exempt from the procedure (see lists), the COMEV recommends to the Administrator or the KEQC decides whether or not the development project should be the object of an impact study.
When a project is subject to the procedure, the committee or commission formulates guidelines outlining the extent of the impact study to be prepared by the proponent. These guidelines are submitted to the Administrator, who transmits them to the proponent, with or without changes.
If the Administrator deems it necessary to change a COMEV recommendation, he must first consult the latter.
3. Impact study
During the third step, the proponent prepares the impact study in accordance with the Administrator’s guidelines.
It should be pointed out that the Regulation respecting the environmental and social impact assessment and review procedure applicable to the territory of James Bay and Northern Québec defines what elements must be included in an impact study.
Among them: a description of the project and of the biophysical and social environments affected; an assessment of the project’s probable repercussions; a description of the project alternatives and a description and assessment of remedial measures.
The proponent submits his impact study to the Administrator, who then sends it to the review committee, either the COMEX, if the project is located south of the 55th parallel, or the KEQC, if the project is located north of the 55th parallel.
The Native administrations and the public can make representations to the committee, which may also hold public hearings or any other type of consultation.
The COMEX recommends or the KEQC decides whether to reject or authorize the development project and, if so, under what conditions. It must then define the changes or additional measures that it considers appropriate.
Taking into account the COMEX recommendation or the KEQC decision, the Administrator grants or refuses authorization for the project. If the Administrator cannot accept the committee’s recommendation or commission’s decision, he must consult the latter before making a final decision and informing the proponent. The Native administrations affected are also informed of the final decision. Moreover, sectoral authorizations (with regards to quarries and sand pits, water and sewer mains, camps, etc.) must be delivered pursuant to Chapter I of the Environmental Quality Act.
The Environment Quality Act establishes time limits, ranging from 30 to 90 days, for each step of the process. However, the administrator can extend any of these time limits, if the need arises.
Projects automatically subject and automatically exempt from the procedure
The Environment Quality Act and the JBNQA specify which development projects are automatically subject to the environmental and social impacts assessment and review procedure. They also specify which projects are automatically exempt from the procedure. These include projects with little impact or activities that can be assessed within another framework.
A complete list of these projects follows.
Projects not included in these lists must be submitted to the Administrator, who then decides whether or not they are subject to the process by taking into consideration the COMEV recommendation or KEQC decision.
Since the JBNQA was signed, some 500 projects have been submitted to the environmental assessment process. Among them: La Grande hydroelectric facilities (phase II); mining projects, in the northern part as well as in the southern part of the territory; roads, some intended to open up access to Cree communities; and various projects such as the establishment of parks, landfills and caribou hunting facilities.
Project control and follow-up
The Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs, through its Nord-du-Québec and Côte-Nord regional offices, exercises on-site surveillance of the conformity of projects to the authorization issued by the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks. This is in addition to the control that the proponents themselves must exercise.
For some major projects such as hydroelectric developments and mining projects, the Ministère can also determine that the proponent conduct an environmental follow-up on specific subjects with the aim of confirming or detecting certain impacts or better defining certain necessary mitigation measures.
If you require further information, please contact the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs' Information Centre.