April 18, 2020

I demanded answers on Teck Resources project

Recently I filed an official order paper request in which I demanded answers on the Liberal handling of the vital Teck Resources oil sands project.

I asked:

With regard to the government’s approach to the proposed Frontier mine project by Teck Resources Ltd.: (a) what specific steps, if any, did the government take in order to save the project; (b) why did the government delay its decision on approval for the project for over six months; and (c) did anyone in the government propose intentionally delaying the decision until the application was withdrawn, and, if so, what are the details of the proposal, including who made the proposal?

Here is the answer the Liberal government provided to me in the original documents:

The Frontier Oil Sands Mine Project was assessed in accordance with the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012). On February 23, 2020, Teck notified the federal government that they would like to withdraw their regulatory application from the federal environmental assessment at any time if a proponent advises the Minister in writing that it does not intent to carry out a project. Following receipt of the letter fro Teck, the Minister subsequently, terminated the Project on February 25, 2020. 

a) The proposed Project was the subject of a regulatory process where the objective is to evaluate the potential environmental effects associated with the Project. 

The assessment was conducted by a Joint Review Panel between the federal government and the Alberta Energy Regulator. In its report, the Panel in its role as the Alberta Energy Regulator, per the Alberta Oil Sands Conservation Act, concluded that despite the significant adverse environmental effects, the Project was in the public interest. Subsequent to this Panel report, a federal decision was still required under CEAA 2012. The process would have required a decision by the Minister to determine whether there are significant adverse environmental effects, and if so, refer the matter to the Governor-in-Council to make a determination as to whether those effects are justified in the circumstances. 

b)  The Project was reviewed under the former environmental assessment legislation (CEAA 2012), and the timelines set out under that legislation were respected. The review started in 2012 and included a submission of an updated project design initiated by Teck in 2015. Once the Joint Review Panel was appointed, the environmental assessment followed a reasonable timeframe within the legislated timelines established.

On July 25, 2019 the Joint Review Panel released its report The following day, intensive work was underway by the federal government to review the report, and prepare potential draft conditions that went out for a 3-day comment period. In addition, concerted efforts were made to ensure that Indigenous groups were consulted, and measures identified to address potential impacts on rights. This process required the federal government to take the necessary time for consultation, ensure that it full carried out its fiduciary responsibilities, and prepare the necessary briefing package for decision-makers.

Under the Impact Assessment Act, the government built in provisions that make the review robust, but with timelines that allow for an efficient review. 

c) There was no proposal developed bu the federal government that sought to delay a decision until Teck withdrew its application. The decision to withdraw was unilaterally made by Teck.