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The environmental assessment process should begin as soon as possible, ideally at the start of a project. Based on the principle that every person has a right to a healthy environment and to its protection, and to the protection of the living species inhabiting it, environmental assessments are intended to:
Environmental assessment is a preferred instrument for sustainable development. Its primary goal is to foster informed decision-making by the government when authorizing major projects or projects that raise significant concerns, particularly on the part of the public and Indigenous communities. It also allows for considering environmental and social concerns at all stages of a project, from its initial design to its completion, when applicable. It helps the proponent design a project that, in addition to being economically and technically feasible, has been optimized to be more fully integrated into the receiving environment and more broadly acceptable from an environmental perspective.
Environmental assessment takes into consideration the opinions, reactions, and main concerns of the people, groups, organizations, and local and Indigenous communities impacted by the project. In this respect, it indicates how the various stakeholders that are involved or interested were included in the project’s planning process and takes the outcomes of the consultations that were held into account.
A modern, clear and predictable environmental authorization scheme
On March 23, 2017, the National Assembly adopted Bill 102, entitled “An Act to amend the Environment Quality Act to modernize the environmental authorization scheme and to amend other legislative provisions, in particular to reform the governance of the Green Fund.”
The new Environment Quality Act (EQA) reflects the government’s desire to provide Québec with a clear, predictable, and optimized authorization scheme that meets the highest environmental protection standards.
The new approach is based on the level of environmental risk and is an effective way to focus efforts on projects that have major environmental impacts.
Projects subject to the environmental impact assessment and review procedure fall into the high environmental risk category and are governed by new provisions in the Regulation respecting the environmental impact assessment and review of certain projects, which entered into force on March 23, 2018, and which replaces the Regulation respecting environmental impact assessment and review.
A new public participation opportunity
On the basis of the proponent’s notice and the Minister’s directive, any person, group, or municipality may, during the 30-day public consultation period, submit observations to the Minister on issues that should be addressed in the project’s impact assessment statement. The Minister will then send the observations on relevant issues raised that justify being taken into account in the impact assessment statement to the project proponent and will publish them in the environmental assessment register.
In accordance with the new legal and regulatory provisions, the Environmental Assessment Register was put online on March 23, 2018. The register contains all documentation on projects that are subject to an environmental assessment procedure under the EQA. The register enables the population to follow the progress of the files being analyzed, participate in the various forms of public consultation provided for within the framework of the procedures, and be informed of decisions rendered.