Evidence of meeting #13 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was environmental.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • R. Liam Mooney  Vice-President, Safety, Health, Environment and Quality, Regulatory Relations, Cameco Corporation
  • Jamie Kneen  Co-Manager, Communications and Outreach, Environmental Assessment and Africa Programs, MiningWatch Canada
  • Denise Carpenter  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Nuclear Association
  • Heather Kleb  Director, Regulatory Affairs, Canadian Nuclear Association

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Mark Warawa

Good morning, colleagues. Good morning, witnesses. We do have quorum, so I'll ask you to take your seats and we will begin. We have a lot to do in a short period of time.

Today we have Cameco, the Canadian Nuclear Association, and Mining Watch Canada.

Thank you, to each of you, for being here. There is up to 10 minutes for each witness group.

We will begin with Cameco Corporation. You have up to 10 minutes.

11 a.m.

R. Liam Mooney Vice-President, Safety, Health, Environment and Quality, Regulatory Relations, Cameco Corporation

Good morning. My name is Liam Mooney. I'm the vice-president of safety, health, environment and quality, and regulatory relations, with Cameco Corporation.

I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I'll start by saying that I'm pleased to present to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development as part of your ongoing review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, or CEAA.

I am joined today by Jeff Hryhoriw, Cameco's manager of government relations. We have provided a written brief, but before I get into our proposal for positive pragmatic reform for CEAA, I want to provide you with some background on our company.

Cameco is headquartered in Saskatoon. We are one of the world's largest producers of uranium for nuclear energy, accounting for roughly 16% of total global supply. Most of it is generated from our mining operations in northern Saskatchewan.

We also have uranium refining processing and fuel fabrication facilities in Ontario, and we are part of a partnership in Bruce Power's nuclear plant on the shores of Lake Huron. On top of this, we are actively exploring for additional uranium resources in a number of provinces and territories throughout Canada.

Through these various activities, Cameco directly employs almost 3,200 people in this country, with nearly a quarter of our Canadian workforce comprised of first nations and Métis citizens. We are proud to be Canada's largest industrial employer of aboriginal peoples.

With that introduction I'd like to turn now to our views regarding CEAA.

Environmental assessment provides an important framework for sustainable development in Canada, development that builds this country's economic and social well-being. However, some serious flaws inherent in CEAA and its regulations run contrary to the interests of Canadians.

The 2009 report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development cited a number of these problems, specifically noting that the federal EA process suffers from systemic delays, lack of coordination, and focuses on expensive and frustrating process without being able to demonstrate value to the environment or society.

Some positive steps were taken toward improving the federal EA system through the 2010 Jobs and Economic Growth Act. However, more change is necessary, and this review of CEAA presents a welcome opportunity to make further progress.

As an industry proponent of many projects that have been subject to the federal EA process, Cameco has developed a set of four practical reforms that we are proposing. In brief, they are as follows: one, eliminate multiple environmental assessments—in other words, adopt a one project, one process model; two, rationalize project triggers. three, better integrate environmental, social, and economic considerations; and four, establish environmental assessment cycle times.

One additional recommendation we would propose is to ensure that any changes made to improve the federal EA process are extended to all projects that are subject to it, including those involving the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in the case of our industry.

We would emphasize that the changes we are proposing are not aimed at lowering environmental standards or removing any area of industrial activity from regulatory scrutiny. Rather, they are simply intended to improve the efficiency, timeliness, and predictability of the EA process. In short, they are reforms that would benefit all Canadians interested in fostering sustainable development by allowing legitimate development to proceed without unnecessary process.

I will now briefly expand on each of these points.

First, with regard to eliminating multiple environmental assessments, there is broad consensus between the provinces and the federal government that the concept of one project, one assessment, appropriate to the scale and complexity of the project, is a laudable goal that should be pursued. This would put an end to the practice where two independent and separate processes are conducted, scrutinizing essentially the same work to accomplish the same overall end. This duplication of effort often results in lengthy delays to projects, without any additional environmental benefit whatsoever. Instead, a single thorough review process undertaken by one level should satisfy both federal and provincial requirements.

In our view, the solution is straightforward: provide the federal authority with the ability to designate another jurisdiction's assessment of a project as equivalent under CEAA. This would eliminate redundancies of overlapping review.

Our second proposed amendment is to rationalize project triggers. Environmental assessment is intended to serve as a planning tool for projects and not be the last word on a project. In practice, the EA process has become much more invasive than that. It has been extended to decisions made with respect to minor approvals on projects that are already covered under an existing licence. The net result is that there are a great number of EAs for minor works or undertakings, introducing lengthy process delays into essentially administrative decisions.

To address this issue Cameco proposes amendments that would end costly and unnecessary reviews on a large number of minor projects while allowing for an increased focus on major projects.

Our third proposed reform is to better integrate environmental, social, and economic considerations. When evaluating environmental mitigation measures, it is important to consider what is technically and economically feasible and to factor in the economic and societal benefits of the project to Canadians.

The intent of CEAA is to promote sustainable development and thereby achieve or maintain a healthy environment and healthy economy. This is reiterated in the Federal Sustainable Development Act, which holds that the basic principle of sustainable development “acknowledges the need to integrate environmental, economic and social factors in the making of all decisions by government”.

In practice, however, EAs tend to be reduced to the environmental considerations only and do not contemplate overall regional or even global benefits. As a result, a project offering broader environmental, socio-economic, or sustainable development advancements can be buried under a relatively minor, potentially localized, impact. In addition, CEAA maintains that the facts to be considered in an EA include the need for the project and mitigation measures to be “technically and economically feasible”.

This would suggest that a degree of proportionality should be factored in when mandating solutions to rectify an identified potential environmental impact. However, this is seldom the case. In practice, responsible authorities do not appear to contemplate whether a specific environmental protection measure is economic in its own right, whether it's reasonably balanced with the potential economic environmental impact, or what effect it will have on the overall project viability.

Our fourth proposed amendment is to establish environmental assessment cycle times. Without compromising appropriate environmental stewardship, it is vital to shorten EA timelines and accelerate the review of projects that are subject to the federal EA process. The stated goal of the Major Projects Management Office is to complete EAs within two years. Much would be gained by requiring federal authorities to follow timelines mandated by legislation or the federal environmental assessment coordinator.

The new establishing timelines for comprehensive studies regulations are a very promising first step in this regard. They set firm timelines and a transparent means of tracking how the timelines are met. However, our optimism here is premised on these regulations and any other improvements to CEAA being sent to all industry proponents, including uranium industry proponents, irrespective of other federal regulatory regimes.

This leads to our final recommendation, that these and other positive reforms made to the EA process be extended to all projects that are subject to the federal EA process, including those led by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

In summary, Cameco agrees that Canada's environmental assessment regime must be robust and thorough to ensure that the pristine environment for which our country is world renowned remains well protected. At the same time, it must also be efficient and well coordinated so as not to stifle the development that has enabled Canada to thrive economically and socially.

At present, this balance is not being met. However, changes are possible to CEAA that would vastly improve the efficiency, timeliness, and predictability of the EA process without weakening overall protection of the environment afforded by the current regulatory regime.

The positive pragmatic reforms that we have proposed will go a long way toward addressing the frustrations project proponents in this country regularly encounter under CEAA. We hope that as members of the committee you will likewise appreciate the benefits of these recommendations and incorporate them in your final report to Parliament.

Thank you.

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Mark Warawa

Thank you so much. You stayed within the ten minutes, and I thank you for that.

Mr. Kneen, with Mining Watch, is next. You have up to 10 minutes.

11:10 a.m.

Jamie Kneen Co-Manager, Communications and Outreach, Environmental Assessment and Africa Programs, MiningWatch Canada

Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members, for the opportunity to appear before you on this important topic. I apologize that my speaking notes were not ready in time for translation, so you don't have them in front of you, and also that my colleague, Ramsey Hart, was not available to be here today.

MiningWatch Canada is a pan-Canadian coalition of environmental, aboriginal, social justice, international development, and labour organizations that advocates for responsible mining practices and policies in Canada and by Canadian companies operating internationally.

We have extensive experience in the environmental assessment of mining projects, intervening in the public interest as well as working with community groups, first nations, Inuit, and others in their interventions. We've also been actively involved in discussions of environmental assessment policy at federal and provincial levels.

I'd like to start by signalling our concerns over the present review. We don't know what the timing, scope, and focus are, to be honest. Apart from groups and individuals who've been alerted to these hearings and have been invited to participate, there is no indication of when and how the public will be able to participate. Witnesses have very short notice to appear, so have little opportunity to develop more comprehensive submissions or to coordinate with each other.

Finally, there has been no public engagement process, not even a discussion paper, to signal to the public what the government's key considerations for this review might be.

I don't envy you your position. You are now faced with an array of opinions and options, and you will have to find a way to make coherent and constructive recommendations.

It is a real contrast, actually, with the process that led to the creation of the act, which I was part of and which involved broad consultations and extensive deliberations, and included the creation of a regulatory advisory committee to oversee the development of the act's key regulations.

It is also a contrast to the five-year review of the act, with discussion papers, a national consultation process led by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, and the participation of the regulatory advisory committee.

When that review reached this committee, a witness list was developed before the hearings even began. While there was certainly some disappointment in the results, I don't think any stakeholder felt that the process hadn't been fair or that they hadn't been heard.

With reference to CEAA, I will present a number of challenges and recommendations that in our view would help resolve those challenges.

First, public participation and aboriginal engagement need to be reinforced. You've heard mention of the MiningWatch Supreme Court case, and of course the key issue there was public participation. I've circulated a short article about that case.

Along the way it also had to deal with scoping and discretion. Those issues have largely been dealt with, thanks to the court's judgment, but there are still serious obstacles to consistent and effective public involvement in EA processes.

Timeliness is often invoked as an objective, if not a principle, of good EA. Unfortunately, it's often code for, or explicitly identified as, at the proponent's convenience or simply speedy, rather than recognizing the different realities faced by different participants in the process. A fixed period for public review and comment that happens to coincide with a major holiday or harvest season is only timely from an administrative perspective. Releasing documents just before Christmas, for instance, may be convenient for the person trying to clear his or her desk before the holidays, but if it happens too often, people begin to wonder if their input is really welcome.

Participant funding is another challenge. Both the amounts available and the timing of its availability make it difficult for the volunteer-based community organizations that we work with to participate effectively. Funding availability is often announced along with or even after the beginning of the public comment period for guidelines, with the actual allocations being made later on.

This severely restricts people's ability to do serious work at the guideline stage. Ideally, it would be phased, in coordination with the review, and some funding would actually be allocated before groups were expected to start work. Private contractors usually ask for a deposit or a retainer.

Funding amounts are perennially inadequate. In the interest of time, I'll skip the details, but maybe we can come back to that later.

Others have made the point, but I think it bears reinforcing, that public participation is a cornerstone of good EA for several reasons. On practical grounds, local knowledge is often important in understanding environmental impacts, and independent evaluations of project parameters are likewise important in verifying or challenging the proponents' predictions.

At the same time, for any project to make a meaningful contribution to sustainability, it must also be socially accepted. Transparency and fair and meaningful involvement in the assessment process are part of that.

People have an expectation of democratic involvement, and they rely on specialist groups such as ours to support them. Proponents and bureaucrats often seem to have an aversion to greater public involvement, which is understandable. It is messy. People don't always behave. It costs money. It takes extra time. It may highlight deficiencies in the project. It may help create consensus and social licence for a project, or it may highlight fundamental conflicts of interest and may even lead to the cancellation of a project. But in our view, if a critical eye on something prevents a stupid and expensive mistake, isn't that a good investment of time and money?

Second, panel reviews are a crucial component of the environmental assessment regime. The most effective public involvement is through panel reviews in which there are actual hearings and there can be an open and independent presentation and interrogation of evidence. People can be heard and can see how their concerns are dealt with, instead of just reviewing documents and filing comments.

The Supreme Court decision clarified the application of the comprehensive study list regulation, but we're concerned that the decisions on panel reviews are being done arbitrarily. The assessment of the Cliffs chromite project in Ontario's famous Ring of Fire is a good example. The Matawa first nations had asked for a panel review to get a broader and more participatory assessment of cumulative impacts of the project and its related infrastructure and the sustainability of mining development in the region and in the Cliffs mine as a basin-opening project. They have stated that they're not opposed to the project, but they've gone to court because their request to designate the environmental assessment as a comprehensive study was ignored. This situation was entirely avoidable.

Third, a strong and consistent federal role is essential. I found Arlene Kwasniak's submission to you very helpful in drawing an important distinction between duplication and overlap. As the mining association, among others, has pointed out, now that the agency has the necessary authority, unnecessary duplication can be and is being dealt with. We also join the mining association and others in asserting the need for continued funding of the agency to carry out this central role, as well as continued funding for the aboriginal engagement program. We disagree, however, with industry submissions calling for the elimination of overlap and the delegation of assessments to the best-placed regulator, whether federal or provincial.

In addition to the problem of ensuring that eliminating overlap doesn't leave gaps in jurisdiction, as you've already heard from other witnesses, there is not likely to be consensus about which regulator is best placed. Mark Haddock’s in-depth comparison of the provincial and federal assessments of the Prosperity Mine project in B.C. shows that the two processes do not look at the same issues in the same light. It's worth noting that under the current rules, there's no reason that project wouldn't have undergone a coordinated joint review. Based on our experience and observations of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is best placed to conduct environmental assessments of nuclear installations.

Fourth, regional and strategic environmental assessments need to be included in the legislation. Surprisingly, I disagree with some of your industry witnesses on the need for strategic EA policies, plans, and programs as well as regional assessments. It is precisely by undertaking higher-level assessments that some of the most difficult challenges facing individual project assessments can be addressed. Meaningful EA of policy initiatives would assist in achieving coherence and sustainable development objectives and compliance with international obligations as well as establishing clear criteria for both proponents and the public when individual projects are initiated. Regional EA, closely linked to the development and implementation of land-use plans, would provide a framework for subsequent project proposals. For this reason, some industry groups have strongly supported it.

Finally, the act should include monitoring and enforcement measures. This review provides an opportunity to address the weaknesses of the CEAA regime in following up its predictions and its commitments. As it now stands, compliance with the act ends with the decision to approve a project. Monitoring and enforcement of mitigation measures are left to individual departments and agencies and are therefore vulnerable to capacity limitations and institutional weaknesses. Furthermore, any recommendations emerging from the EA process that do not correspond to specific licensing or permitting requirements may simply slip through the cracks. Unfortunately, these tend to be precisely the innovative and positive measures.

We see EA as part of an integrated and participatory planning process with sustainable development as its ultimate objective. If these reasons don't provide justification, there are also pragmatic and practical reasons to approach it this way: better projects and diminished long-term liabilities; public acceptance and a social licence to operate; and avoidance of lengthy delays and the possible loss of investment due to litigation and public protest.

Thank you very much.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Mark Warawa

Thank you, Mr. Kneen.

Finally, we will be hearing from the Canadian Nuclear Association. You have up to 10 minutes. Thank you.

11:20 a.m.

Denise Carpenter President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Nuclear Association

Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, and the public who are here today.

I have with me today Mrs. Heather Kleb, who is our director of regulatory affairs.

We're here today to speak on behalf of the 70,000 people who work in Canada's nuclear industry. Everyone who works in our industry, be they managers, scientists, technicians, or construction workers, not only work in but have their homes in the communities where our industry resides. They're ensuring the safety of our communities and are protecting the environment we live in today, and therefore our first and most important priority is safety.

The Canadian Nuclear Association has about 100 members. They work in uranium mining and exploration, fuel processing, electricity generation, and the production and advancement of nuclear medicine.

As may be expected, many of our projects and activities are subject to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. In fact, our members have completed numerous, many—lots of language like that—environmental assessments in the 15-year period during which the act has been in effect. Environmental assessments have become an integral part of how we conduct our business, and we have gained considerable insight from carrying them out.

While we believe that the environmental assessment is a valuable planning tool that leads to improved decision-making, we also believe that there are areas for improvement, particularly regarding process efficiency and predictability.

Our recommended improvements include the following: a goal should be one project, one assessment by the best-placed regulator; environmental assessments, or EAs, should be effective; EA requirements should be proportional to the risks; EA decisions should be consistent with permitting and authorization decisions; and the EA process and decision-making should be timely.

I will elaborate.

Regarding the principle of one project, one assessment by the best-placed regulator, it's our view that to truly be effective, a project should be subject to one EA only, and that EA should be conducted by the jurisdiction or regulator with the most comprehensive knowledge of the project or industry. In other words, it should be the best-placed regulator. For most of our industry, that would mean the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. The only exception we'll bring up would be the province of Saskatchewan, where Canada's uranium mining industry resides. While the CNSC is a knowledgeable regulator, one can never underestimate the value of local knowledge, whether it be local community, aboriginal, or regulatory knowledge. In either case, our members would recommend that the agency with the most appropriate authority over a project assume responsibility for the EA and the decision. They also recommend that one assessment satisfy both federal and provincial requirements.

If the province of Saskatchewan were designated the best-placed regulator for uranium mining, it would be fairly straightforward, as Saskatchewan has one central agency that is responsible for uranium mining EAs. In most situations where the federal government is the best-placed jurisdiction, responsibility for EAs should be consolidated in a strengthened and appropriately resourced Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the CNSC.

The Jobs and Economic Growth Act went some distance toward achieving this consolidation by ensuring that where the CNSC is the full life-cycle regulator, its EA and licensing process will substitute for the CEAA process. Recent efforts to establish a memorandum of understanding between the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the CNSC allow the CNSC's EA to substitute for an EA by a review panel.

This also went some distance toward a single assessment process. However, there is an opportunity to build on these efforts by further consolidating the CNSC licensing process and the EA process in a single process when screenings are needed.

There's also an opportunity to improve the effectiveness of the EAs so that Canadians can have confidence that they're fostering environmentally and socially responsible economic activity. The intent of the act is to promote sustainable development and to thereby achieve and maintain a healthy environment and a healthy economy. However, the focus is obviously, and often, on the environment rather than on the economic aspects of the project.

Improvements could be achieved through better integration of the environmental, social, and economic considerations. These steps would help ensure the EAs are fostering the environmentally responsible economic activity that underlines Canadian prosperity.

For example, nearly 6,000 federal EAs are conducted each year, requiring scientific studies and reports, but there's limited allowance for the application of these EAs to similar or related projects. This situation could be improved by enhancing the precedent value of EAs, which would also increase the cost effectiveness. Maximum use should be made of the information that's already been collected through previously completed EAs.

The scope of the EAs should also be proportionate to the environmental risk. The act allows for three types of EAs—screenings, comprehensive studies, and review panels—so that the more likely a project is to cause significant adverse environmental effects, the more substantive the process, but because of overly inclusive law list regulations and underdeveloped exclusion list regulations, routine administrative activities such as approvals made pursuant to a licence can trigger an EA. That is because the EA process is triggered for projects involving the listed legal provision without consideration for the extent, the scope, of the activity in question.

Under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, the process is triggered whenever a licence is issued or amended or an approval is issued pursuant to a licence. Such approvals should not trigger an EA when there are no new risks. The EA scope should instead focus on the risks that were not previously addressed. Known and manageable risks that were previously addressed through EAs and other regulatory processes should not be re-evaluated. That undermines the earlier process and leads to unnecessary duplication. This could be prevented by amending the exclusion list regulations to exempt minor approvals for the existing facilities from another EA and modifying the act to exempt activities that improve environmental performance.

Re-evaluating should also be avoided in subsequent authorizations and permitting processes. Currently, the act has no application to permitting, licensing, or any other authorizations that are required following the EA. That in fact triggers the EA. As a result, these authorizations are not always consistent with the EA conclusions.

The absence of coordination is particularly apparent on the federal level when an authorization under the Fisheries Act may not be acceptable under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act licensing process. Ideally, if an EA concludes that a project is unlikely to result in significant adverse environmental effects and the risks addressed by subsequent authorizations were previously assessed, then authorizations should be certain and timely.

To increase certainty, CNA members recommend that proponents be able to opt for review of permits and other authorizations as early in the EA process as they choose. Also, Fisheries Act and other authorizations should be maintained as discrete processes, separate from the EA, and not delay the EA process.

Together these recommendations would improve certainty and the timeliness of the EA process. The duration of an EA process can be long and unpredictable. According to the Major Projects Management Office, the typical timeframe for the approved major projects in Canada is four years, not counting the studies carried out by the proponent.

In closing, I'd like to reiterate that once the best-placed regulator is identified, federal and provincial agencies should accept each other's processes and decisions as equivalent to their own. EA decisions should focus on the socio-economic as well as the environmental. Previously assessed projects and activities should not be re-evaluated. Authorizations and permits should be consistent with previous assessments. Lastly, the formalized agreement should be established to improve timeliness of the EA process.

Thank you.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Mark Warawa

Thank you so much.

We'll now go to our first round of questioning, and we will begin with Mr. Woodworth. You have seven minutes.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and my thanks to all of the witnesses for their attendance here today.

It's a process that has been developed over a number of years, but I still regard the assessment process as being in its formative or adolescent stage. Hopefully it will come to maturity in the next 10 or 15 years.

I don't have much time, so I'd like to direct my questions to Ms. Carpenter, with help from Ms. Kleb, regarding a couple of the proposals you have made. I want to commend the two industry representatives for giving us specific statutory language to work with. We are here to address the architecture of the act, so those kinds of proposals are very helpful.

Mr. Kneen, if you have any proposals for statutory amendments, this is just the committee. It will go to the government eventually. There will still be a lot of consultation. If you have proposals for statutory amendments regarding the architecture of the act, I invite you to let us know.

To the Canadian Nuclear Association, I would like to ask you about issues of substitution and equivalency. I think they are addressed on page 4 of your submission talking about one project, one assessment by the best-placed regulator. There's a comment that each process must have provisions that enable it to incorporate or accommodate the requirements of the other jurisdictions.

One of the concerns we've heard expressed this morning is that there's a difference between duplication and overlap. I think I understand that it's one thing to duplicate the same requirements and standards, but there may be an area where two legislative bodies or two regulators have overlapping jurisdiction but maybe different standards. I think in such a case one would want to ensure that not only the process is accommodated but the standards of relevant legislative authorities are also addressed in a single process.

I don't know if I've articulated that well enough to be understood, but if I have, can you tell me if that would be acceptable? Is that what you are contemplating when you speak about substitution and equivalency?

11:30 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Nuclear Association

Denise Carpenter

Obviously it's a challenge for our industry. I'm going to transfer it over to Heather, because I know she has some very specific answers and situations she would like to relate to you.

But consistency is consistency. If we have to pre-negotiate consistent standards, we need to do it as an industry, as a federal government, as provincial governments, and as regulatory authorities, because that is a problem for a lot of industries, not just ours.

I'll turn it over to Heather on the specifics.

11:35 a.m.

Heather Kleb Director, Regulatory Affairs, Canadian Nuclear Association

We would certainly support an initiative to ensure that they are equivalent. I started working on environmental assessments when it was the environmental assessment review process, and I think I was one of the first people to take the course on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Since that time I've worked on provincial EAs in Saskatchewan, as well as federal EAs in Ontario. We can make this recommendation feeling fully confident that provincial and federal EAs show up with a consistent level of quality and rigour in your environmental assessment process.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Very good. So the short answer is that it would actually benefit the industry if not only processes but standards were consistent and accommodated in a substitution or equivalency process. Thank you.

The other area I am interested in is on previously done assessments and the proposal for section 24 in your brief. This is addressed at page 6 of your brief to us. I've looked at the proposed amendment to section 24, and I want to make sure I understand it correctly.

First of all, I understand this has to do with cases where assessments have been performed in similar or related undertakings. Am I right on that?

11:35 a.m.

Director, Regulatory Affairs, Canadian Nuclear Association

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Okay. The existing section 24 seems to talk about assessments where the original project was different or didn't go ahead, whereas yours seems to talk about previous assessments where there was a similar undertaking.

Is that the distinction you're trying to draw with this?

11:35 a.m.

Director, Regulatory Affairs, Canadian Nuclear Association

Heather Kleb

Our argument is that section 24 is very limited to environmental assessments that were carried out for the same sort of activity.

At AECL's Chalk River Laboratories there have been about 37 environmental assessments carried out since the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act came into effect. Yet they're still continuously triggering environmental assessments, even though that site is very well studied.

It has exhaustive environmental monitoring programs—ISO-14001-compliant environmental monitoring programs—targeted at identifying potential environmental effects. But small projects like the replacement of a concrete weir in a stream—routine maintenance—are triggering federal EAs under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

So some precedent value needs to be allowed, as a result of those existing EAs and studies, so that those resources are....

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Maybe it's a....