Steps in the procedure
In accordance with Article 154 of the Environment Quality Act (EQA), any project proponent wishing to carry out a project that is automatically subject to the procedure, or a “grey zone” project, must first request a certificate of authorization or an attestation of exemption and undergo the social and environmental impacts assessment and review procedure For details, please consult the section “Projects subject to and exempt from the procedure”.
1 Preliminary Information Statement
As the first step in the procedure, the proponent must complete a Preliminary Information Form. This step should coincide with the preliminary planning of the project, when the proponent is studying the various possible options and the technical, economic, environmental and social aspects of a project so as to select the best options for further study. Under Articles 155 and 156 of the Act, the proponent must then send the appropriate Administrator a notice of intent and the preliminary information on the project. The content of this preliminary information is set out in Article 2 of the Regulation respecting the environmental and social impact assessment and review procedure applicable to the territory of James Bay and Northern Québec, and includes in particular:
- The identity of the proponent and their consultant, if there is one;
- the project title;
- the project objectives and justification;
- the project location and any plans to study alternative locations;
- a description of the project and alternatives under study;
- main environmental and human constraints;
- primary impacts anticipated;
- public information and consultation processes;
- project schedule;
- subsequent phases and related projects;
- in the case of a “grey zone” project, which is not automatically subject to or exempt from the procedure according to Schedules A and B of the Act, sufficient information must be provided to enable a summary evaluation of the social and environmental impacts of the project and to determine, if necessary, whether or not the project must undergo the assessment and review procedure.
Please visit the page “Renseignements préliminaires pour la réalisation d’un projet en milieu nordique” on the MELCC website for more details on the information required and the form that must be completed.
2 Assessment and Directive
Once the Administrator has received the preliminary information and the notice of intent, the file is forwared to the Evaluating Committee (COMEV).
In the case of a grey zone project, the COMEV must first decide to recommend to the Administrator that the project be subject to or exempted from the assessment and review procedure. To this end, the COMEV studies all the documentation presented. If necessary, the COMEV may recommend that the Administrator ask the proponent to respond to additional questions or comments. When the COMEV has completed its analysis, it sends its recommendation to the Administrator. Note that when a project is exempted, an attestation of exemption is sent to him/is issued. If a project is subject to the procedure, whether automatically or following the recommendation of the Evaluating Committee, it continues its way through the process.
The COMEV issues a directive for all projects that must undergo the process. The directive is a document outlining the nature and scope of the impact study that the proponent must undertake. This directive is sent to the Administrator, who forwards it to the proponent, with or without revisions. If the Administrator considers it necessary to revise a recommendation from the COMEV, he must consult it first.
3 Preparing the impact study
During this stage, the project proponent undertakes an impact study that complies with the directive issued by the Administrator.
It should be noted that Article 5 of the Regulation respecting the environmental and social impact assessment and review procedure applicable to the territory of James Bay and Northern Québec sets out the essential elements that should be found in an impact study, including:
a. “a detailed description of the project, including its objectives, possible alternative sites, the identification of the territory and populations likely to be affected, an evaluation of the equipment and the activities related to the various phases of the carrying out of the project, as well as the extent and make-up of the personnel required, and energy assessment and materials (input and output) employed by the project, an evaluation of available material, technical and human resources required for operating the project, a statement of subsequent phases of the project as well as possible stages of future development;
b. a description of the environment, in particular the land (topography, geology, soil and drainage), water (hydrology and qualitative aspects thereof), the atmosphere (climate, localized climates and qualitative aspects), flora and fauna, including data respecting the ecological reports and the interaction between various elements of the environment, the scarcity, the fragility, the productivity, the variety, the development and the localization of those elements;
c. a description of the social milieu, populations in particular (demography, place of residence, ethnic composition), land use (man-made constructions, dwelling-places, public services, roads, known heritage sites, cemeteries and burial sites), wildlife development (methods of management, utilization and importance of various species), revenues and usage (standard of living, employment, firms), social institutions (education, public services, transportation and other service undertakings), health and welfare, social structures (family, community, ethnic relations), and culture (values, goals and aspirations);
d. an evaluation of the impact which the project is likely to have on the environment and the social milieu, described in accordance with subparagraphs b and c, including direct, indirect, cumulative, long and short term, reversible and irreversible, local, regional and national effects which are likely to take place at various stages of the carrying out of the project, with reference to the reliability and accuracy of the data used as well as restrictions imposed on the impact assessment statement due to lack of information and areas showing uncertainty or risk;
e. a description of reasonable alternatives to the site of the project on the territories referred to in section 133 or 168 of the Act and of reasonable alternatives to certain elements of the project, including a comparative evaluation of costs, advantages or dangers of each alternative on the environment and social milieu;
f. a description and an evaluation of corrective and restorative measures to reduce or minimize the negative effects of the project on the environment and social milieu, including any measure intended to promote the desirable effects of the project.
The accuracy of the details provided in the impact assessment statement must correspond to the extent and the consequences of the identified impacts.”
The impact assessment statement must also meet COMEX’s expectations and needs as set forth in the document entitled Consultations Conducted by the Proponent : Expectations of the Review Committee.
The proponent submits the impact assessment statement to the Administrator, who forwards it to the Review Committee. The Review Committee analyzes every project that must undergo the social environmental assessment and review procedure, calling on the relevant expertise from various Quebec government departments and agencies as well as from the government of the Cree Nation.
In the course of its analysis, the Review Committee may recommend that the Administrator forward questions or comments to the project proponent, or that he ask the proponent to undertake further research or additional studies. The documents reviewed by COMEX are made available to the public on the Committee’s website and in MELCC’s environmental assessment register, except for documents or information deemed confidential.
During this step in the procedure, the public is given the opportunity to make submissions to the Committee; the Review Committee may also hold public hearings or other forms of consultation. This public participation enables the Review Committee to gauge the concerns of the people in the territory, and to benefit from the traditional knowledge of the aboriginal communities.
When it has finished its review, the Committee recommends whether or not the project should be authorized, and if necessary, determines the conditions that will apply. The Review Committee can also specify any modifications or additional measures it considers necessary.
Once the Administrator has received the Review Committee’s recommendation, he either refuses the project, or approves it and issues a certificate of authorization. Note that the register of all certificates of authorization issued since January 1, 2000 is available online on the MELCC website.
If the Administrator cannot accept the Review Committee’s recommendation, he must consult with it before rendering a final decision and informing the proponent. The final decision is also forwarded to the Government of the Cree Nation.
Even though the proponent has received a certificate of authorization, he must still obtain any other authorizations required by virtue of Chapter I of the Environment Quality Act.
Amendments to the certificate of authorization
If the proponent wishes to make any changes to a project after it has been authorized, he must ask the Administrator for an amendment to the certificate of authorization.
The Administrator forwards this request to the Review Committee, which analyzes the request and if necessary, consults the relevant experts. It can also recommend that the Administrator ask the proponent to respond to additional questions or comments. Finally, the Review Committee recommends that the amendment be authorized or refused. If may also attach certain conditions to the recommendation for approval.
Monitoring and control
The Ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (MELCC), through the Direction régionale de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue et du Nord-du-Québec, is responsible for ensuring that projects comply with the authorizations issued by the Minister. This control is in addition to the monitoring activities to be carried out by the project proponent.
For most of the projects reviewed by COMEX, the Administrator, following the recommendations made by COMEX, may require the proponent to monitor specific components in order to validate or identify various impacts or to better determine what mitigation measures are needed. COMEX reviews every monitoring report required under a certificate of authorization and is generally kept abreast of developments throughout the life of each project, including the restoration or decommissioning phase, as the case may be.