The environmental and social assessment procedure is defined in sub-sections 23.3.12 and 23.3.30 of the JBNQA and governed by sections 187 to 204 of the EQA. Schedules A and B of the EQA set out, respectively, the list of projects automatically subject to the procedure and projects that are exempt. If the project is not listed in either schedules, it is designated a “grey zone” project.
There are five main steps in the assessment procedure, described briefly here, and summarized in the table below. Section 23 of the JBQNA does not specify time limits for any of these steps, and the timeframe can vary depending on the complexity of the project and its implications, as well as the response time of the proponent in supplying requested information.
To encourage public participation at every step of the procedure, documents transmitted to the Commission (preliminary information, impact studies, answers to questions and comments) are generally made public and added in the project registry.
1 – Project submission
The proponent sends the Administrator (MELCC) a notice of proposal and the preliminary information on the proposed project. This information includes the purpose, nature and scope of the project, as well as possible variants in terms of location or layout. This information is forwarded to the KEQ
2 – Evaluation
If the project is automatically subject to the assessment process, the KEQC prepares a directive specifying the scope of the impact study that the proponent must undertake. This directive is sent to the Administrator, who forwards it to the proponent, with or without modifications. For a “grey zone” project, the KEQC decides whether or not it must undergo the assessment process. In this case, the information provided by the proponent must be sufficient to enable a preliminary assessment of the social and environmental impacts of the project, so that the Commission can determine whether or not it is subject to the review process. If the Commission decides the project is subject to review, the KEQC will prepare a directive for the impact study the proponent must provide. If the decision is to exempt the project, the KEQC will so advise the Administrator, who will issue the proponent an attestation of exemption. This certificate does not exempt the proponent from obtaining authorization(s) that may be required by any law or regulation, including in relation to the EQA.
In certain cases, and before making a decision, the KEQC may request additional information if it considers the information submitted to be incomplete.
3 – Preparation of the impact study
The proponent conducts the impact study, which must take into account the directive issued by the KEQC and cover the elements listed in Schedule 3 of Section 23 of the JBNQA, including the following:
- Context of the project;
- Detailed description of the project and of the social and biophysical environments affected;
- Assessment of the likely impacts of the project;
- Description of the alternatives;
- Description of planned mitigation and compensation measures and of environmental monitoring and compliance programs.
4 – Review and public participation
The proponent submits the impact study to the Administrator, who forwards it to the KEQC for analysis. Usually, the KEQC reviews the project at its next scheduled meeting. If the Commission considers that more information is required, it may formulate questions that are transmitted to the Administrator. The KEQC must receive answers to these questions before continuing with its review. Moreover, the public has the opportunity to make representations to the KEQC, which may hold public consultations if it deems necessary. Public involvement is governed by the information and public consultation procedure.
5 – Decision and authorization
The KEQC decides whether the project will be authorized or refused, and if appropriate, specifies conditions for its implementation. The Administrator takes into consideration the decision of the KEQC in determining whether to approve the project and issue a certificate of authorization. This authorization does not exempt the proponent from obtaining authorization(s) that may be required by any law or regulation, including in relation to the EQA.