Overview of the Environmental Review Process

Posted by Stop Ajax Mine on April 17th, 2012 2:02pm

Here is a brief review of the environmental review process. The EAO document "The Environmental Review Process" can be found on the internet at: www.eao.gov.bc.ca/ea_process.html


Pre-Application Phase

Once it has been determined that a project must enter the environmental assessment (EA) process an order under section 10 of the EA Act is issued.  When this is done government agencies, First Nations and local governments are notified, and the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) begins to form a technical working group. (The government is required by law to consult with First Nations throughout the process.) In most cases the EAO will establish the scope, procedures and methods of the EA by issuing a procedural order under section 11 of the EA Act. This order forms the direction to the proponent on the scope of the project, what parts of their proposed project will be assessed, what effects will be considered in the assessment and what actions and activities the proponent is responsible for in the assessment.  It also sets out required consultation activities and time frames. 

The EAO does this by issuing a document referred to as the “Application information Requirements” (AIR). 


The AIR is an important document because it lays out both what issues will be addressed in the assessment and what information must be included in the final application (e.g. baseline studies, approach to assessing cumulative impacts etc.).  Proponents must pay particular attention to this document because the Environmental Assessment Act does not allow EAO to accept an incomplete application. 

The proponent prepares a draft, and the EAO seeks feedback from the technical working group, First Nations and the public. The EAO directs the proponent to hold a public open house in one or more locations near the project. This is the first opportunity for the public to provide input. 

The  Draft AIR was released by the EAO in January 2012, and the public comment period has now ended. The proponent must now review all of the public, First Nations, local governments, and "stakeholders" submissions and respond to them. All issues raised by the above are posted on the EAO web site. The EAO then assesses the adequacy or acceptability of the responses. The input should address the issues that should be included in the assessment, and what information is required to address those issues. Once the EAO is satisfied that the the draft AIR document is complete, including all necessary revisions, it issues the AIR.


Once the EAO approves the revised AIR the proponent then proceeds with completing the studies and compiling the information. Once it is complete it is submitted to the EAO.

There is no time limit on this phase. It could take weeks or months. Once the proponent has addressed all the AIR requirements, it submits an application to the EAO for screening.


The application is screened by the EAO to ensure that it meets the requirements of the AIR. If it does not meet those requirements, it cannot be accepted. The EAO has 30 days to complete the screening.

The EAO involves the First Nations and technical working group in this evaluation. If any deficiencies are found, the proponent must address them and re-submit the application. This may be possible within the 30 days, but if not the proponent must do the necessary work, however long it takes, and resubmit the application (i.e., start again).


Once the proponent has been notified that an application has been accepted, the EAO has 180 days to complete its review. The proponent must distribute copies of the application to First nations, the technical working group and "other review participants".

During the 180 day application review period the technical working group plays a key role, working with the EAO at meetings held to discuss the application. The proponent attends the meeting where appropriate to discuss substantive issues.

Once the application is accepted it is placed on the ePic site, accessible to the general public.

Shortly after the application is posted on the ePic site there is another public comment period.

One or more EAO-led open houses are held at which the public have an opportunity to review the application, provide comments and ask questions.


The EAO begins drafting the Assessment Report during the 180 day Application Review Phase. The report documents the findings of the assessment, including the extent to which concerns have been addressed and whether any issues remain outstanding. The EAO shares its assessment report with the First Nations, the technical working group and the proponent, and seeks their input. The EAO typically provides three (3) weeks for such comment. 

In addition to the assessment report the EAO provides the ministers with the Executive Director's recommendations (with reasons) as to whether to issue an Environmental Assessment (EA) certificate, and attaches a draft EA certificate.The draft EA will have a schedule which sets out the details according to which the project must be designed and constructed, along with another schedule that sets out all of the commitments the proponent has made to address the concerns raised though the EA process.

Minister's Decision

After the ministers receive the information package from the EAO, they have 45 days in which to make a decision. The minister's have three choices:

1. Issue an environmental assessment certificate attaching any necessary conditions.

2. Refuse to issue the certificate.

3. Require further study or assessment.


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