Friday, March 16, 2012

Ottawa wants to bow out of regulating fish habitat

Canada has an interesting patchwork set of federal and provincial regulations covering waterways. In many cases both levels of government have a regulatory role but neither level does much to enforce the situation because they don't want to upset the other level of government.

It turns out, according to the Globe and Mail, that the federal government would like to download its role in regulating fish habitat in order to facilitate large scale development.

A former federal scientist has obtained internal documents that show the government is trying to get out of the business of regulating fishing habitats, which would allow for speedier approval of megaprojects like the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.
Meanwhile, the Conservative-dominated Commons environment committee on Tuesday recommended downloading much of the job of environmental assessment to the provinces and imposing timelines so the development of big projects won’t be delayed.
Mr. Langer has obtained documents – he would not say from whom – that show the government intends to remove the requirement in the Canada Fisheries Act to protect fish habitats and any fish that is not of “economic, cultural or ecological value.”
“Probably the main reason why the oil industry, especially in the Prairie provinces, wants it out of the act is its use triggers [a review under] the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. If you are going to do harm to habitat, you have to do an environmental review and that takes time and money,” Mr. Langer said in an interview.
Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would bring bitumen from the oil sands to the Pacific Coast for transport to China and other Asian markets, will have to cross 600 different rivers and streams, Mr. Langer said. Bodies of water that do not contain fish that are of human value would not need to be assessed under this legislative change, he said.

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