BREAKING: Canadian Senate Passes Impact Assessment Act, B.C. Tanker Ban, Arctic Drilling Moratorium
The Canadian Senate adopted Bills C-69 and C-48 last night, along with a lower-profile measure enshrining a moratorium on Arctic oil drilling, clearing the way for the country’s new Impact Assessment Act and a federal ban on large tanker traffic off British Columbia’s environmentally sensitive north coast to become law.
“The assault from the oil and gas industry on this legislation was unprecedented,” wrote one observer, but Canada finally has “a new environmental assessment process, and the national energy board has been transformed to a new and improved institution.”
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“Better rules will provide certainty to business and show investors that Canada is the best place in the world to invest,” said Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna in a statement last night, reiterating that many of the contentious amendments to both bills had been handcrafted by the fossil lobby before being adopted by compliant but unelected senators.
In the end, “Bill C-48 was passed with only modest amendments, despite efforts by some senators to create a so-called ‘corridor’ that would allow oil tankers to dock in some designated areas,” the National Post reports.
Sen. David Tkachuk (C, SK), the transport committee chair whose conduct of hearings into Bill C-69 became a matter of public discussion among some senators earlier this month, was critical of the vote, the Globe and Mail writes. But Sen. Paula Simons (I, AB), who some said was “harassed” into casting the deciding vote to defeat C-48 in committee, supported the final version of C-69. She tweeted that the 99 amendments the government had adopted, mostly from Independent senators, had “improved it hugely”.
The Post notes as well that Senate adopted the less heavily-debated Bill C-88, amending the Canada Petroleum Resources Act to ban offshore oil drilling in the North.
In December 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “announced a moratorium on offshore oil drilling across all Arctic waters, which the federal government enforced not through legislation but by simply rejecting any new bids for licences or exploration permits, effectively shutting down any would-be resource extraction in the region,” the Post explains. “The updated legislation now provides the federal government the right to enforce the drilling moratorium based on ‘the Canadian interest,’ but does not explicitly define how the threshold will be met.” In June, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett told a Senate committee that Trudeau was concerned about the risk of an oil spill in ecologically sensitive waters.