Environmental Assessments in North and Offshore Areas
Protection of the environment is an important part of what we do under each of the main acts that guide us when assessing projects in the North and offshore areas: Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act (COGOA), Northwest Territories’ Oil and Gas Operations Act (OGOA), and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act.
We partner with a number of other organizations and work with them to coordinate assessments. We do this for efficiency and to avoid duplicating efforts. Our partners in the North and offshore are organizations set up under various land claims agreements. Their review is critical and their mandate different than ours.
- They are familiar with the area and uniquely placed to do a thorough review of topics such as traditional land use and harvesting rights.
- They ensure the requirements of their agreements are fulfilled before the CER makes a regulatory decision under the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act (COGOA) or the Northwest Territories’ Oil and Gas Operations Act (OGOA).
Pipeline and power line projects in the North and offshore that cross a territorial and provincial boundary still fall under the Canadian Energy Regulator Act. We assess those projects as we do other projects in Canada that cross similar boundaries. However, we still need to ensure the requirements of the land claims agreements are fulfilled.
Search regions and areas
The CER has regulatory responsibilities in each of the regions or areas you see below. Click on any of them to learn more about who we work with to assess a project, the agreements that apply in that area, and where you can go to get full details on environmental reviews or assessments in the area.
Inuvialuit Settlement Region
The Inuvialuit Settlement Region includes the Mackenzie Delta, Beaufort Sea, and Amundsen Gulf area. Large parts of the settlement region is offshore
Two co-management boards review projects under the Inuvialuit Final Agreement.
- The Environmental Impact Screening Committee (EISC): This committee is usually the first to receive information on a proposed project in the region. It does a preliminary screening of the effects on the environment to determine if a detailed environmental impact assessment is needed. If required, it refers the review to the Environmental Impact Review Board, or EIRB.
- The Environmental Impact Review Board (EIRB): This board carries out the environmental impact assessment and conducts public reviews of development proposals deemed necessary by the EISC.
Reviews by the EISC or the EIRB must be completed before the CER makes a decision under the COGOA or the Northwest Territories’ OGOA. The CER also conducts an environmental assessment under both acts.
Specific projects under the purview of the CER in the area (as of 2020):
- the Ikhil gas project
- about 11 suspended wells (onshore)
- Inuvialuit Final Agreement
- Map of the region
- ERIB Environmental Impact Review Guidelines
- EISC Screening Guidelines
- Memorandum of Understanding between the CER, the Environmental Screening Committee and the Environmental Impact Review Board
- Memorandum of Understanding for Inuvialuit Participation in the Environmental Review of any Transregional Gas Pipeline Project and any Accompanying Associated Gas Field Development in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region
- Agreement for Coordination of the Regulatory Review of the Mackenzie Gas Project
- Memorandum of Agreement for the Establishment of the Northern Gas Project Secretariat
- Memorandum of Understanding Defining Terms and Scope of Cooperation between Federal Departments, Agencies and the Northern Projects Management Office for Coordination of Northern Projects
- Memorandum of Understanding between the National Energy Board and the Northwest Territories Water Board
Nunavut Settlement Area
The Nunavut Settlement Area is composed of portions of the Arctic Islands and mainland of the Eastern Arctic and adjacent marine areas (Belcher Islands, associated islands, and marine areas in Hudson Bay).
Within the Nunavut Settlement area:
The Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) screens proposed developments in the Nunavut Settlement Area (NSA), and those that might introduce transboundary effects in the NSA. It determines if a more in depth review, known as an environmental impact review, is needed. They coordinate and work with a number of other boards, agencies, and commissions to assess projects being developed in the area.
Currently there are no projects, or applications for projects, under the CER in the Nunavut Settlement Area.
Projects outside of the NSA that do not have transboundary effects into the NSA are subject to an Impact Assessment under the Impact Assessment Act if the project includes activities listed in the Physical Activities Regulations.
Mackenzie Valley (Northwest Territories)
The Mackenzie Valley includes all of the Northwest Territories except for the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. There are 5 regions in the Mackenzie Valley: Gwich’in, Sahtu, Deh Cho, Akaitcho, and Tlicho. The CER has regulatory responsibilities for oil and gas exploration and production related work or activities in the Norman Wells Proven Area, which is in the Sahtu region. The Sahtu Settlement area consists of about 41,000 square kilometres of land in the Northwest Territories in the central Mackenzie River Valley.
For projects that involve a pipeline that crosses a territorial or provincial border, we review the project under the Canadian Energy Regulator Act.
Preliminary screening and environmental assessments
Four land and water boards were established under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act to manage the review of projects in the area: Gwich’in Land and Water Board, Sahtu Land and Water Board, Wek’èezhii Land and Water Board, and the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board.
The CER works mainly with the 2 co-management boards listed below for preliminary screenings:
- Sahtu Land and Water Board: This board screens proposed developments in the area. It determines if a more in depth review is needed by the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board.
- Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board: This board screens projects that overlaps different regions. They also screen projects that may be in an unsettled land claim area (Deh Cho, Akaitcho). If a more thorough review is needed, they also refer the review to the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board.
All 4 land and water boards may refer a project for a more detailed assessments to the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board if development (or project) might have a significant adverse impact on the environment or might be a cause of public concern.
- Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board: This board conducts detailed environmental assessments of projects in the Mackenzie Valley. It releases a report of its assessment and recommendations. It may then recommend that an independent panel of the board conduct an even further review.
Projects in the area:
Other offshore areas
We have regulatory responsibilities in other offshore areas for oil and gas exploration, production-related work or activities, or pipelines that may cross from offshore to onshore, or from onshore to offshore.
- areas offshore of British Columbia
- Hudson, James, and Ungava Bays, and the Hudson Strait (includes the Eeyou marine region in southern Hudson Bay and northern James Bay)
- parts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence
- parts of the Bay of Fundy
Except for the Eeyou marine region, no land claims agreements exist for these other offshore areas. In most, if not all, cases the assessment of the effects of a project on the environment or on socio-economic conditions would fall under the Impact Assessment Act. Projects needing an impact assessment under this act are listed in the Physical Activities Regulations.
- drilling offshore exploratory wells
- testing offshore exploratory wells
- the abandonment of offshore exploratory wells
Whenever an impact assessment under the Impact Assessment Act is required, the CER may work with the Impact Assessment Agency to do an integrated review. To learn more about this type of assessment, visit the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada website.
Alongside the impact assessment, proposed projects also undergo technical assessments depending on the type of program. This includes reviews from safety, engineering, and geoscience disciplines in the COGOA, OGOA, or CER process.
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