ERS315 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: National Environmental Policy Act, Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Decision-Making

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ERS 315 Week 1 Overview of Environmental Assessment
Course Objectives:
Understand different categories of EAs and methods used through case study approaches.
Develop skills necessary for conducting an EA through a simulated process (main assignment).
See Process Chart/Timeline on last page for a Standard EA: (also known as EA by Responsible Authority)
Environmental Assessment is "a process having the ultimate objective of providing decision makers with
an indication of the likely consequences of their actions."
Scientific data, values, knowledge, and understandings --> Decision making.
It's as much about politics as it is about science!
(Some) EA Objectives:
1. Identify and predict the negative impacts
2. Ensure development decisions are made in the full knowledge of their environmental impacts.
3. Avoid or minimize significant negative biophysical and socioeconomic impacts
4. Identify, enhance and create potentially positive impacts.
Benefits of EA:
1. Avoid adverse environmental effects
2. Opportunities for public participation & Aboriginal consultation
3. Cost savings for proponents
4. Increase public acceptance of projects through participation, can reduce delays
Challenges to EA:
1. Does not apply to all projects, in particular many private sector projects.
2. EA often examines already selected (designed) undertakings. (It's not employed early enough in
the process)
3. Narrow Scope, failing to properly address cumulative impacts or focusing only on one type of
4. Poor follow-up and monitoring
5. The view of EA as a bureaucratic hurdle by some developers, and not actually important for
people or the planet.
EA Origins:
1969 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was the first legislation to contain EA
requirements, proponents are required by law. (USA)
o This was driven by the rise of public pressure about the lack of environmental focus by the
1973 Environmental Assessment Review Process (Canada) Not law, more of a policy
1995 - Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, is now mandatory
2012 - New CEAA, changed much of the act.
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