Federal Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver.
Credits: DAVID BLOOM/EDMONTON SUN/QMI AGENCY
"We will streamline the process by having three organizations carry out reviews: the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the National Energy
Board (NEB), and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC)," Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver Tuesday told reporters in Toronto on Tuesday.
Oliver said provincial reviews should be able to substitute for federal ones, as long as they can meet federal standards, while projects with little environmental impact can skip reviews altogether.
He also says projects regulated by the NEB and CNSC will no longer require joint review panels, such as the one the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal is undergoing.
The federal government had promised in the March budget that review processes would last no longer than two years for any project.
NDP environment critic Megan Leslie warned the changes will substantially limit the thoroughness of the review process.
"After slashing funding to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, they're now saddling it with the obligation to do more complex reviews, faster, with fewer resources," she said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Oliver has indicated he wants to see the quicker process applied to current reviews - including the one into the Northern Gateway project.
Once the new timeline becomes law, he says bureaucrats will have to work out how it can be set retroactively.
"We will have to take into account how long the reviews have lasted so far, how much of the scientific review has been completed, how many of the people who have registered to be heard have been heard, and so on," said Oliver.
A review panel has been dealing with Northern Gateway since July 2010, but community hearings only started in January.
Anti-oilsands activists, many funded lavishly by billionaire American foundations, have vowed to use the hearings to their advantage.