Québec, March 23, 2017. – The Environment Quality Act (EQA) came into force on December 21, 1972. Now, over 44 years later, March 23, 2017 has become another significant date for environmental protection in Québec. Today, the National Assembly adopted Bill 102, presented by the Minister of Sustainable Development, the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change, David Heurtel. The legislation thoroughly modernizes the EQA to take into account new environmental, social, economic, scientific and technological realities.
The 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 is concrete proof that it is possible to foster economic development without undermining environmental protection. The Québec environmental authorization scheme is now clearer, more predictable, optimized, modern, and in line with the highest standards of environmental protection.
The new Act provides mutual benefits for all segments of society affected by the EQA. Municipalities will enjoy greater autonomy, businesses will benefit from a streamlined, clearer and simpler authorization process while the population will have access to much more information more quickly, even though the Act will increase environmental protection, particularly by taking the fight against climate change into consideration in the authorization process.
“After three years of working, listening and holding consultations in all regions of Québec, I am convinced that, today, Québec has given itself a new, balanced Environment Quality Act that will benefit everyone. I want to acknowledge the work of the members of the National Assembly’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment and commend them for their constructive contribution to making this new legislation a modern tool that will move Québec forward in a responsible way. Together, we can continue the transition to a lower carbon world as well as contribute to the modernization and sustainable development of our economy to ensure the best quality of life for our children. Let’s do it for them!”
David Heurtel, Minister of Sustainable Development, the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change
A clearer, predictable, optimized and modern authorization scheme that is based on environmental risk
- The new EQA increases the authorization scheme’s modulation based on the risk to the environment without reducing environmental requirements.
- No later than one year after the law is passed, projects will be ranked according to four levels of environmental risk, which will require four different types of frameworks.
- For example, when a project poses a low risk to the environment, a simple declaration of compliance from the project proponent will be required. However, more technical authorizations will need to be signed by an expert in the sector concerned.
- The new EQA will streamline, harmonize and clarify application processing and authorization procedures.
- Modulation based on environmental risk will eliminate about 1,500 ministerial authorizations on an average of 5,000 per year.
- Ultimately, all aspects of the Act combined will result in reducing the amount of time involved in applying the environmental authorization scheme.
- Three types of activities now require a simple declaration of compliance on the part of the project proponent. This represents a significant time reduction compared to the previous situation:
- Some water and sewer system extensions;
- Some work for the rehabilitation of contaminated land;
- The establishment and subsequent operation of an asphalt concrete plant under certain conditions.
- Project proponents are no longer required to include a certificate of compliance with municipal regulations in their authorization application.
- However, they must notify their municipality of a new project by sending a copy of the project notice submitted to the Ministère.
- The following is now public information:
- New authorizations, including documents and studies that are an integral part of them;
- New authorization applications, including information pertaining to contaminants likely to be released into the environment, subject to the protection of confidential industrial and trade secrets of the companies concerned;
- Declarations of compliance.
All these documents will eventually be posted on the Web. In the interim, they are available upon request.
- Other progress:
- A “climate test” will make it possible to intervene ahead of projects in order to assess and minimize their GHG emissions;
- The expertise of the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) will be more fully utilized, particularly with respect to determining which public consultation means to choose;
- The public will have an opportunity to share its observations on issues that the project proponent’s impact study should address;
- A new general authorization intended for municipalities will be created for certain types of work.
- Modifications other than those concerning the EQA will come into force as soon as the Act is passed:
- The Conseil de gestion du Fonds vert (Green Fund management board) will be established;
- Greater importance will be given to the principles of rigor, transparency and accountability in Green Fund governance;
- The Green Fund’s activities will be focused on the fight against climate change, residual materials management and water governance;
- The Fund for the Protection of the Environment and the Waters in the Domain of the State will be established.
A progressive entry into force
- Modernization of the environmental authorization regime requires modifying several regulations that will come into force over the next 12 months and a very small number that will come into force after 24 months.
- In the meantime, changes in the Ministère’s ways of operating will be ongoing, namely by making the improvement of service delivery a continuing priority.
- During this transition period, most of the EQA’s provisions that were in force before the Act’s passing will continue to apply.
Additional information on modernizing the authorization regime of the EQA, including a general information sheet, is available on the website of the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques. The site also has a section on the Green Fund where ample information and documentation on the subject is provided.
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