Environmental Law

Section 3: Organizing, Reviews, and Challenging Issues

Lesson 3: An Environmental Review

You have heard a good deal in this course about the formal reviews used nowadays to assess the effects a project is likely to have on the environment. Governments use reviews of this sort to assess the impact on the natural environment, on people living in the area, and on the traditional way of life of Aboriginal peoples. They try to weigh these consequences against the economic benefits of the project in an attempt to decide whether or not it should be allowed to go ahead and, if so, with what restrictions.

But just how are formal reviews conducted? Of course, the process varies depending on the nature of the project and on what authority is carrying it out; but for the most part, reviews follow the same sort of pattern. In this lesson, you'll be given a general overview of how the process works. It's possible someday you'll find yourself involved in an environmental review, either supporting or objecting to a project proposed in the area where you're living. If so, this material may be of some practical use. If not, it is still important that you understand how this process works to safeguard public input into activities that can so profoundly affect people's quality of life.

The processes outlined in what follows are simplified from what you'd actually encounter in a real situation, but they should give you an idea of how things work in a general sense.

Imagine that a company wants to undertake a project that is bound to have environmental consequences. As an example, let's say that the plan is to develop a mine. A project of this sort would be subject to a review by Alberta's Natural Resources Conservation Board (the NRCB) to see whether, all things considered, it is in the public's interest that the mine go ahead.


The Application

The company wanting to develop the mine is required by law to submit an application to the NRCB (Natural Resources Conservation Board) for review โ€”the company then becomes known as the applicant. The application must contain the following components:

  • A description of the project including things like the following:

    • Location
    • Design
    • Natural resource inputs
    • Waste by-products
    • Alternatives to the project

  • An evaluation of the project's likely impact and plans to monitor them and minimize their effects.

  • Impacts of the following sorts should be covered:

    • Environmental
    • Social
    • Economic

  • A description of what has been done to involve those likely to be affected by the project in an attempt to take their concerns into account in planning the development.

  • A summary of why the applicant thinks the project would be in the public interest.

If a formal environmental impact assessment was carried out for the project, it must also be submitted.

When the NRCB (Natural Resources Conservation Board) receives an application, it conducts an initial review to make sure everything's in order; it may require more information from the applicant.

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