An Environmental Assessment (EA) is a results-based process used by the Government of Saskatchewan to understand and evaluate the potential environmental impacts of a project before any irreversible decisions are taken that may lead to negative effects on the environment, natural resources or public health and safety.
The Environmental Assessment Act (the Act) requires the proponent of a development to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and to submit an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for review and approval by the Minister of Environment (the Minister). When the Minister grants approval, the proponent may proceed with obtaining all other required regulatory permits or licenses. Proponents are required to comply with the terms and conditions of an approval as outlined in the Act.
Please contact the Ministry of Environment if you have any questions or need further guidance in understanding the EA process in Saskatchewan.
Types of projects proponents should submit an application for
In general, the ministry will want to screen any project, operation or activity with the potential to meet the definition of a 'development' within Section 2(d) of the Act:
- Where the outcomes of a screening suggests that the project is likely to meet the definition of a 'development' as per section 2(d) of the Act; further studies may be required as part of the EIA process; and
- Projects with minor or no impacts may be screened out without incurring a detailed formal assessment.
Typically, projects that have met the definition of 'development' within Section 2(d) of the Act have included:
- Industrial projects: chemical manufacturing, primary metal and forest product industries;
- Energy projects: power plants, electric transmission lines, natural gas processing or storage plants and transmission pipelines;
- Mine projects: coal and mineral mines;
- Water management projects: water diversions, dams;
- Waste management projects: special waste facilities, local government solid and liquid waste management facilities; and
- Transportation projects: large public highways, new northern roads.
However, a wide range of smaller projects may also be reviewed for the potential to meet the definition of development within the Act:
- Oil and gas production in sensitive areas;
- Food processing operations;
- Intensive livestock operations; and
- Subdivisions in sensitive areas.
Proponents may seek advice on which projects need to be submitted to the ministry from:
- The ministry directly;
- Filling out a self-assessment checklist found in Appendix A of the Technical Proposal Guidelines; or
- Other ministry staff with regulatory responsibilities related to the project.
How screening differs from an environmental assessment
Screening is the process the ministry uses to determine whether or not a project, operation or activity is a 'development' within Section 2(d) of the Act.
The proponent submits a project proposal that describes the project purpose, manner of operation, location and impacts to the surrounding environment as well as any environmental protection measures that will be applied.
On the basis of information submitted, the ministry considers if the project is likely to have impacts significant enough to warrant an EA.
If the ministry concludes the project is unlikely to meet the definition of a 'development', the proponent is advised that the project has not triggered the EA process and may go on to get any further environmental approvals and requirements under other legislation.
If the ministry concludes the project is likely to have significant impacts, then the proponent will be asked to submit an EIS for analysis, following a period of public review and comment, in advance of a Minister's decision.
When is a project a development?
A project is a 'development' under section 2(d) of the Act if it is likely to meet one or more of the following criteria:
- Have an effect on any unique, rare or endangered feature of the environment;
- Substantially use any provincial resource and in so doing pre-empt the use, or potential use, of that resource for any other purpose;
- Cause the emission of any pollutants or create by-products, residual or waste products which require handling and disposal in a manner that is not regulated by any other Act or regulation;
- Cause widespread public concern because of potential environmental changes;
- Involve a new technology that is concerned with resource use and that may induce significant environmental change; or
- Have a significant impact on the environment or necessitate a further development which is likely to have a significant impact on the development.
The difference between a Ministerial Determination and Decision
If the project meets one or more of the six criteria identified in the preceding question, it receives a Ministerial Determination that it requires an EIA to be conducted with an EIS to be approved by the Minister prior to proceeding (Ministerial Decision).
If the project does not meet any of the six criteria identified as defined above, the proponent receives a Ministerial Determination that it does not require an EIS to be completed for review and decision prior to proceeding.
The Federal Government's role in EA reviews
For projects that are subject to both a provincial and federal EA, the ministry will co-ordinate with our federal counterparts to ensure information is being shared. The Ministry works with federal agencies to reduce regulatory duplication were possible while ensuring environmental impacts are minimized through a fulsome process.
Can a member of the public request that a project be reviewed?
Members of the public should contact the Ministry through Central Support Services should they feel a project, operation or activity requires an environmental assessment prior to proceeding.
Once a project clears the process
The proponent may still need to obtain a variety of other provincial, federal and local government authorizations (e.g. permits, licenses, land use by-law approvals, etc.) to construct and operate the project.
The Environmental Assessment process usually identifies most, if not all, the relevant approvals that may still be required.