Environmental Assessment Office
Compliance and Enforcement
The Environmental Assessment Office's work does not end when a project receives an environmental assessment certificate. Compliance and enforcement is an important part of the environmental assessment process to ensure operators are following the conditions designed to mitigate potential adverse effects to the environment, heritage, health, social and economic values and Aboriginal Interests. We have made the enhancement of our Compliance and Enforcement Program a top priority, incorporating best practices from other provinces and countries. We collaborate with other provincial government agencies to coordinate oversight of projects that have successfully completed an environmental assessment.
Compliance with what?
Upon completion of the environmental assessment process, projects may be granted an Environmental Assessment Certificate that has legally-binding conditions attached to it. These conditions must be adhered to throughout the life of the project (such as pre-construction, construction, operations, and decommissioning).
Who is involved?
Our compliance staff work with staff from other provincial government agencies responsible for subsequent permits. They clarify inspection roles and responsibilities to provide a coordinated approach to compliance with Certificate conditions and other authorizations. Throughout the life of a project, the Environmental Assessment Office and our partners collaborate to ensure the project is built and operated in a way that protects the environment and other important values.
How do we provide compliance oversight?
In consultation with our partner agencies, the Environmental Assessment Office prepares a compliance management plan to ensure coordination among government agencies. The compliance management plan provides the general approach to compliance oversight for a project and prioritizes each condition in an Environmental Assessment Certificate based on the likelihood that the operator will not comply with the condition and the associated level of harm if that happens. This plan is updated as the project moves along.
Every year, the Compliance and Enforcement team determines which projects will be inspected. In addition, inspections may be conducted following a complaint or as follow-up to previous inspections.
What are Certificate Holder Self-Reports?
Self-reporting means that operators monitor their own situation and report to us on their success in meeting the requirement of the conditions attached to their project.
In addition to the inspections conducted by the Environmental Assessment Office and our partner agencies, operators submit compliance self-reports that we review and post online within six weeks. However, we do not rely solely on self-reports to determine compliance; rather they are one of many sources of information to help inform our compliance oversight. The self-reports that we have received and reviewed can be found on EPIC in the 'Compliance Reports/Reviews' link under the "Certificate Issued" tab for certified projects.
What happens if a project is not in compliance?
When a project is found to be in non-compliance, we determine the most appropriate enforcement response based on the relative severity of the non-compliance. Potential responses include advisories, warnings, and a range of potential sanctions set out in the Environmental Assessment Act (Part 5 – Sanctions). For example, the Minister of Environment may order that the operator cease activity or that a non-compliance be remedied in a specific way and within a specific time. The Minister may suspend, cancel or amend a Certificate. The tools we use are based on how serious the situation is and how likely we think the operator is to correct the problem.
Through inspections, investigations, audits, self-reports and working closely with our partners, the goal of our compliance and enforcement program is that we are independently and objectively confident that operators are adhering to their certificate conditions.