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Legal Guide

Permit requirements

Most Canadian environmental statutes prohibit the release of any substance that can cause an “adverse effect” into the natural environment, unless authorized by regulation or permit. As “adverse effect” is very broadly defined and includes such things as dust and noise, virtually all industrial facilities require an environmental permit. These permits generally take the form of a “Certificate of Approval” issued by the provincial regulator, which will set maximum discharge quantities, and impose conditions and monitoring and reporting obligations. Permits for federally regulated activities work on a similar basis.

Environmental assessments

Certain types of large projects may trigger the need for an “Environmental Assessment” before a permit can be obtained. Environmental Assessments are comprehensive studies of environmental effects that involve scientific and engineering consultation, as well as public participation. First Nations (Aboriginal) consultation is playing an increasingly important role in Canada, as there is a constitutional obligation on the federal government to consult with First Nations prior to approving certain projects. Due to their complexity, Environmental Assessments have the potential to significantly delay planned projects. Certain aspects of a project may trigger both federal and provincial environmental assessment legislation. In such cases, it is possible to have the assessments conducted concurrently by the relevant federal and provincial authorities and, where necessary, to have these assessments reviewed by a joint panel consisting of representatives appointed by both levels of government.

Permit transfers

Permits are generally not transferable, but under certain circumstances, such as an acquisition in which the key technical personnel and the environmental policies do not change, regulators have demonstrated a willingness to expedite the application process.

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