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Policies, goals and objectives


Repeal of the 1992 Canadian Environmental Assessment Act


In 2012 the Government of Canada repealed the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA), established


in


1992 to evaluate and mitigate negative environmental effects caused by industrial projects. The Act had served as a model for environmental assessment standards and legislation around the world. Following its repeal a new law subjected a much smaller range of projects to assessment, expanded ministerial discretion and narrowed the scope of assessments (Doelle 2012). Approximately 95 per cent of projects that would have required assessment under the old CEAA are now exempt, and 3000 on-going assessments were cancelled immediately after the change (Kirchhoff and Tsuji 2014).


Among the types of projects no longer assessed are those related to groundwater extraction; heavy oil and oil sands processing; industrial mining for salt, graphite, gypsum, magnesite, limestone, clay and asbestos; milling of pulp, paper, steel, and textiles; metal smelting; leather tanning; and the manufacturing of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, pressure-treated wood, chemical explosives and lead-acid batteries. While open-pit extraction of bitumen is subject to assessment, in situ extraction that injects steam below ground is not (Gibson 2012). In addition to private sector activities, nearly all the federal government’s own projects are now exempt from assessment, and no mechanism remains for considering the cumulative effects of multiple projects (Gibson 2012). The new Trudeau administration has pledged to review these changes in environmental legislation and restore “lost protections” and credibility to environmental assessments and ensure that decisions are based on science, facts, and evidence and serve the public’s interest. As part of the review, the plan will be to modernize and rebuild trust in the National Energy Board, which will consist of broad regional representation and sufficient expertise in fields such as environmental science, indigenous traditional knowledge and community development (Liberal 2015).


Changes in US land policies


Agricultural Act of 2014 The Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly known as the “Farm Bill,” was signed into law on February 7, 2014. It resulted in major changes in farm commodity programmes, added new crop insurance options, streamlined conservation programmes, modified some aspects of supplemental nutrition programmes, and expanded programmes for specialty crops, organic farmers, bioenergy feedstock producers, rural development, and assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers (Claassen 2015).


Conservation programmes are focused on working farms, ranches, and forests. There is a cap on the number of acres covered by the Conservation Reserve Programme, which will gradually decrease over five years from 12.9 to 9.7 million hectares. The area enrolled has been dropping for the past five years, so the impact of the cap reduction is likely to be modest. The real shift within the programme has been from enrolling entire fields to enrolling only parts of fields, such as stream-side buffers, field-edge filter strips, grassed waterways, and wetlands. These are areas where conservation benefits are high, and costs on a per-acre basis are also higher than for entire fields. However, by only enrolling the critical and sensitive parts of fields, crop production is sustained. The new bill encourages the shifts underway. The bill also re-linked crop insurance premium subsidies to conservation compliance—protecting highly erodible land and wetlands—for the first time since 1996. The conservation aspects in the bill also include (Claassen 2015):


• Funding was provided for long-term easements for restoration and protection of on-farm wetlands and to protect eligible agricultural land from conversion to nonagricultural uses.


• The Environmental Quality Incentives Programme (EQIP) will continue to assist producers to install and maintain conservation practices on eligible agricultural and forest land. The bill also transfers functions and funding formerly in a separate wildlife habitat


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