Environmental Assessment Legislation Review

Thank You!

The Provincial Government wishes to thank each person and organization who participated in the consultation process on the Environmental Assessment Legislation Review. Responses from the public were received over a six week period between April and July, 2019, (excluding the caretaker period for the provincial election) and approximately 60 submissions were received to inform the What We Heard document. You are invited to review the document and submit your comments to [email protected] by June 30, 2020.

Click here to view the What We Heard document

Now Closed

This engagement was hosted on engageNL from June 5 to July 3, 2019.

Table of Contents:



The purpose of environmental assessment is to protect the environment and the quality of the life of the people of the province through sustainable development. It also facilitates the wise management of the province’s natural resources through a planning process before the commencement of an undertaking (project).   

The legal framework for the completion of an environmental assessment is provided by the:

For the purposes of this review, these two pieces of legislation are collectively referred to as the "Environmental Assessment Legislation".

Federal Review of Environmental Assessment

The majority of projects complete the provincial environmental assessment process, as they do not trigger federal Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (2012) (click here to view the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (2012)) requirements. A small number of projects are required to complete both the provincial and the federal processes because the type of project is referenced in provincial and federal legislation. When a project triggers both a provincial and federal environmental assessment, the province works with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to cooperate and align the two processes, where possible.

This provincial review is different and separate from the federal government’s proposed new impact assessment process that is expected to replace the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (2012) (click here to view the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (2012)). In 2016, the Federal Government ordered a review of its environmental assessment process, with a focus on ensuring the federal process incorporates scientific evidence, protects the environment, supports economic growth, and respects the rights of Indigenous peoples. In 2018, the Federal Government proposed significant changes to its assessment process in Bill C-69, an Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. This proposed federal legislation is currently undergoing review in the Senate. The outcomes of any proposed changes to the federal legislation will be considered in the provincial review.

For more information on current public participation opportunities in the federal review, please visit: www.impactassessmentregulations.ca/. For more information on the progress of the federal review, please visit:  www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/conservation/assessments/environmental-reviews.html.

Environmental Assessment Process

The provincial Environmental Assessment process begins when a project concept is considered (i.e. a referral) (Figure 1). Referrals can come from government departments and agencies, as well as directly from proponents. The Environmental Assessment Regulations (click here to view the Environmental Assessment Regulations) designate projects that must be registered and those exempt from registration. Projects may be large (e.g.: mineral extraction, hydroelectric development) or smaller (e.g.: waste management, agricultural fields, ATV trails). The Regulations allow for some discretion in that if potentially significant environmental effects are indicated, the minister may require registration of any proposed project.

Once registered, every project completes the registration phase (Figure 2). Most projects complete the registration phase and are then released, possibly with conditions. A few projects per year require further assessment through an Environmental Preview Report (Figure 3) or an Environmental Impact Statement (Figure 4). Seldom have projects required the level of assessment offered by a board and public hearings or a joint review panel. On average, 51 projects are registered for assessment each year. A project may be withdrawn from the process by the proponent at any stage of the assessment.

Figure 1. Overview of the environmental assessment process showing the possible paths a project may take before a decision.

Figure 2. Steps in the registration phase of an environmental assessment.

Environmental Preview Report

Figure 3. Steps in the Environmental Preview Report of an environmental assessment.

Environmental Impact Statement

Figure 4. Steps in the Environmental Impact Statement of an environmental assessment.


Why is Government reviewing the Environmental Assessment Legislation?

Good environmental assessment practice depends on a strong legislative foundation whereby procedural steps are clearly articulated and create certainty for both proponents and the public. In addition, strong legislation should facilitate oversight and compliance and ensure transparency where appropriate.

The Environmental Assessment Legislation is now over 15 years old and the legal, economic, and environmental landscape has changed. The current legislation needs to be updated to reflect developments in: best practices in access to information, engagement, and procedural steps; technological advances; and emergent environmental issues (e.g.: climate change, sustainable development, cumulative effects).

What are the objectives of the review?

This review will examine broad policy and operational issues associated with environmental assessment, with a focus on improving:

  • Openness and Transparency (e.g.: enhance public access to information);
  • Certainty (e.g.: updated project list);
  • Efficiency and Effectiveness (e.g.: clear process steps and timelines); and
  • Flexibility (e.g.: harmonization with other jurisdictions; ensuring the minister has appropriate options to address matters such as gathering more information).

Get Involved

You can have your say by completing an online questionnaire and/or a written submission.

Online Questionnaire

Each section of the questionnaire contains specific questions related to the environmental assessment process and areas of the legislation that require review. There is also an opportunity for respondents to indicate any additional feedback at the end.

It will take you approximately 45-60 minutes to complete this questionnaire and we thank you in advance for your participation. The questionnaire will be available until July 3, 2019.

Please note you are required to log in or register in order to complete this questionnaire.

Click here to complete the questionnaire

Written Submissions

If you prefer to participate with a written contribution, you can either fill out a copy of the guide or prepare a letter/submission responding to the questions. 

Please provide your written submission and any supporting documents in a single PDF, DOC, DOCX file.  Date your submission and include your personal contact information (name, organization name, address, telephone number, etc.) The Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment may request further elaboration of a written submission from the author of that submission.

Click here to download or view the discussion guide.

Written submissions will be accepted until July 3, 2019.

Mailing address:
Environment Assessment Division
Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment
P.O. Box 8700
St. John's, NL  A1B 4J6



[email protected]

All written submissions and information provided by participants during this consultation phase, including their name and organizations, where applicable, will be available on this website for public viewing.

Publication of written submissions
  • All written submissions and information provided by participants, including their names and organizations, if applicable, will be posted on this website for public viewing.
  • By providing a written submission, you are deemed to consent to the publication of the written submission and any supporting documents.
  • By providing a written submission, you are also deemed to consent to the publication of your personal information, such as your name and personal opinions included in the written submission, unless you request, and the Department agrees, that the information not be disclosed.
  • In the absence of a clear indication that a written submission is intended to be confidential, the submission will be treated as public.
  • The Department may withhold from disclosure confidential information and personal information in order to protect the confidentiality and privacy of the submitter of the written submission or others mentioned in the written submission.
  • Publication of a written submission or withholding of personal information and confidential information in a submission is at the discretion of the Department, which will be exercised in accordance with the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, 2015.
  • We would however advise that confidential written submissions may still be subject to an access request under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, 2015.
The publication of written submissions will be subject to the EngageNL Moderation Policy.

How will your input be used?

The information collected through all parts of the engagement process is being reviewed by the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment. All feedback will be considered as officials prepare recommendations for modernizing the legislation.

Privacy Statement

The collection of information for the online questionnaire is done under the authority of section 61(c) of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, 2015, for the purpose of collecting public feedback on the current environmental assessment legislation and ways to improve it.

Any personal information that may be received will be governed in accordance with the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, 2015 and will only be used for the purpose of informing the comprehensive review of the environmental assessment legislation.

If you have any questions about how this information will be collected, used, and disclosed, please contact the Environmental Assessment Review by email at [email protected] or call (709) 729-0673.

Contact Us

If you have any questions or additional comments regarding the Environmental Assessment Review, please email [email protected] or call 709-729-0673.