Post-Assessment Approval (Follow-up) Processes Under the Proposed Federal Impact Assessment Act (IAA)
Impact Assessment Act, Climate Change, Regulatory Process, Canada
A historically neglected but critical part of any assessment process is what happens after project approval to ensure the project is implemented in the manner envisaged during the assessment, to ensure adjustments are made to regulatory requirements in case predictions about project impacts turn out to be inaccurate, and to ensure we learn from past assessments to improve future assessments. We sometimes refer to these elements collectively as follow-up. It is important to note, however, that this term is often used in a more narrow sense to refer only to post-approval monitoring and reporting.
We conceive of the post-approval process as a process that would include the collection and reporting of information, but would also include evaluation, public reporting, and appropriate responses for the approved project and for future assessments. All too often in assessment processes, critical elements of follow-up are either neglected altogether or are left to project regulators or proponents without formal accountability and without ongoing coordination or transparency. This is not surprising given that historically participants have tended to consider the assessment process to be completed once the project decision is made. However, the cost of not paying adequate attention to this part of the process has been high.
Key for an effective follow-up program is that it has to track whether predictions made during the assessment turn out to have been accurate, whether mitigation measures are as effective as predicted, and whether terms and conditions are complied with and prove to be adequate. Effective follow-up requires the results of this analysis to feed into adaptive regulatory approaches for approved projects, and learning processes for future assessments. We have identified the following key elements of an appropriate legislative approach to follow-up:
- Clear and adequate monitoring and reporting requirements for project proponents
- A clear plan for engaging affected communities and the interested public in the design and implementation of follow up programs
- Appropriate public registry requirements with respect to follow-up
- Appropriate enforcement provisions to ensure compliance with terms & conditions of approval
- Mechanisms to ensure appropriate learning and clear responsibility to implement lessons learned through adaptive management of approved projects
- Mechanisms to ensure implementation of lessons learned for future assessments
- Cooperation on follow-up with federal regulators, and a clear allocation of responsibilities
- Cooperation with other jurisdictions involved in the life cycle of approved projects without delegating federal responsibilities.
Meinhard Doelle & John Sinclair, "Post-Assessment Approval (Follow-up) Processes Under the Proposed Federal Impact Assessment Act (IAA)" (18 March 2018), online (blog): < blogs.dal.ca/melaw > [perma.cc/7H52-U9KV].