Advancing Cumulative Effects Management
Canadians expect the environment and the economy to go hand in hand. An important part of this is protecting our oceans and keeping them healthy, clean and safe for future generations. Under its $1.5-billion Oceans Protection Plan (OPP) — and specifically through its Cumulative Effects of Marine Shipping Initiative and the Coastal Environmental Baseline Program — the government is establishing a shared approach to better understand coastal ecosystems and the potential effects of regional marine vessel activity on the environment.
The Cumulative Effects of Marine Shipping pilot project was launched to identify the effects of existing and future vessel movements on the environment. First Nations, local communities and stakeholders are central to this project by helping identify key priorities and collect relevant information that may be used in assessing the cumulative effects of marine shipping. Measures will include: data collection in six areas within Canada, such as northern and southern B.C.; the development of a national cumulative effects assessment framework; and specific tools that can be applied to both existing vessel movements and those of future project developments.
Through the Coastal Environmental Baseline Program, the government is tracking the impacts of port-related activities and the health of ecosystems on the west coast in high vessel-traffic areas. Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientists are working closely with Indigenous and coastal communities to gather comprehensive baseline data to better detect changes in the environment over time. The vital evidence collected on the impacts of shipping traffic and climate change will inform what further action the government will take to make our waters cleaner, safer and healthier.
The Government of Canada will also mitigate the environmental effects related to the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) project by building on existing federal programs and implementing new measures. The National Energy Board (NEB) will continue to regulate the project throughout its life cycle.
Following a 22-week reconsideration process, the CER submitted its Reconsideration Report on the project with an overall finding that the TMX project is in the Canadian public interest and should be approved subject to 156 conditions and 16 new recommendations.
All 156 of the CER’s proposed conditions are within the scope of its regulatory authority and TMC would be required to meet them for the project to proceed. Conditions imposed by the CER are legally binding.
The conditions cover a wide range of areas, including: emergency preparedness and response; protection of the environment; pipeline safety and integrity; consultation with affected Indigenous communities; socio-economic considerations; commercial support for the project prior to construction; and TMC’s financial responsibilities. Of these 156 conditions, a number of conditions will advance the management of cumulative effects.
The government has also asked the CER to amend six conditions to respond to concerns from Indigenous communities and to address outstanding impacts to Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.
To view the full list of conditions, visit the CER’s condition compliance web page.
The CER made 16 recommendations related to marine shipping. These include: managing and monitoring the cumulative effects on the Salish Sea; measures to offset increased underwater noise and increased strike risk posed to Species at Risk Act-listed marine mammal and fish species; enhancing marine oil-spill response; improving marine shipping and small vessel safety; reducing greenhouse gas emissions from marine vessels; and co-developing the Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee.
The government has a broad response strategy to address the 16 recommendations. Recommendation one (#1) deals specifically with advancing cumulative effects management. This includes:
- implementing a cumulative effects management plan for the Salish Sea; and
- allocating new resources to support scientific work to improve the overall understanding of cumulative effects related to air and water quality.
As part of the re-initiated Phase III consultations, consultation teams had an expanded mandate to discuss specific accommodation measures to address the concerns of potentially affected Indigenous groups. The government has put forward eight accommodation measures to focus on capacity building, long-term relationship building, marine safety, spill prevention, response capacity, cumulative effects, fish and fish habitat, quieter vessels and further terrestrial studies.
The Salish Sea Initiative responds to cumulative effects, including impacts on the Southern Resident Killer Whale. It is a long-term investment strategy to develop and support the capacity of First Nations along the Salish Sea to monitor and evaluate the impact of human activities on their local ecosystems.
The Terrestrial Cumulative Effects Initiative will respond to concerns regarding the cumulative effects from development — including the impacts of this project. It will also enable the co-development of a cumulative effects framework focused on understanding the current state of the environment and monitoring changes in response to natural processes. For example, the findings from this initiative will inform projects to restore fish habitat and analyze the local watershed.
The Terrestrial Studies Initiative will support Indigenous-led studies to better understand the project’s potential impacts, including on traditional land use. It could also inform the monitoring of cumulative effects from the construction, operation and maintenance of the project.
To comply with the CER’s conditions, TMC is responsible for tracking the implementation of its commitments on the project. This includes the preparation of a construction Emergency Response Plan (ERP), as well as consultations with First Nations on the development of enhanced ERPs for the expanded pipeline system.
To view the full list of TMC commitments, visit the Commitments Tracking Table.
Complemented by generational investments in Canada’s oceans and clean technology, the TMX project is clear evidence that Canada can grow its economy and deliver its natural resources to international markets while safeguarding the environment and advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
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