Government of Nova Scotia
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Environment

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Environmental Assessment

Frequently Asked Questions

The following are questions which the Environmental Assessment Branch commonly receives.

  1. What is environmental assessment?
  2. What types of developments are required to undergo an environmental assessment?
  3. Do I have to register my existing facility or operation for environmental assessment?
  4. How long does it typically take to complete an environmental assessment?
  5. Who reviews the environmental assessment information?
  6. How can the public participate during an environmental assessment?
  7. How is the public notified about an environmental assessment?

1. What is environmental assessment?

Environmental Assessment (EA) is a decision-making tool used to promote sustainable development by evaluating the potential environmental effects of major developments before they proceed. This is accomplished by involving the public along with various government departments and agencies during the environmental assessment.

Environmental assessment also promotes better project planning by identifying and addressing environmental effects at the earliest stages of project development and can save proponents time and money.

2. What types of developments are required to undergo an environmental assessment?

Developments required to undergo an environmental assessment are listed in the Environmental Assessment Regulations. These developments are called undertakings and are divided into two classes, Class 1 and Class 2.

Class 1 undertakings are usually smaller in scale and may or may not cause significant environmental impacts or be of sufficient concern to the public. Therefore, a public review of a proponent's initial submission or registration is required and the Minister will decide if a more detailed review and/or public hearing is required. These types of developments include, but are not limited to, mines, certain highways and waste/dangerous goods handling facilities.

Class 2 undertakings are typically larger in scale and are considered to have the potential to cause significant environmental impacts and concern to the public. These types of developments include, but are not limited to, solid waste incinerators, petrochemical facilities and pulp and paper plants. These undertakings require an environmental assessment report and formal public review which may include hearings.

The Minister has the authority to apply an environmental assessment to a policy, plan or program, or a modification, extension, abandonment, demolition or rehabilitation to those undertakings listed in Schedule A, and any other undertaking not listed under Class 1 or Class 2.

Category Class 1
A. Industrial Facilities
  1. A storage facility with a total capacity of over 5000 m3 intended to hold liquid or gaseous substances, such as hydrocarbons or chemicals other than water.
  2. A facility for the manufacture of wood products that are pressure treated with chemical products.
  3. A facility that produces fish meal.
  4. A rendering plant.
  5. An onshore pipeline 5 km or longer, other than a pipeline that carries any ofthe following:
    1. natural gas, if the pipeline has a maximum operating pressure below3450 kPa (500 psig);
    2. water;
    3. steam;
    4. domestic wastewater.
  6. A natural gas processing plant.
  7. A paper product manufacturing plant
  8. An oil refinery that
    1. produces no more than 15,000 L of hydrocarbon products per day; and
    2. uses a feedstock that meets all of the following criteria:
      1. it contains no more than 1% sulphur or sulphur compounds by weight;
      2. it does not contain halogenated compounds.
B. Mining
  1. A facility that extracts or processes any of the following:
    1. metallic or non-metallic minerals;
    2. coal;
    3. peat;
    4. peat moss;
    5. gypsum;
    6. limestone;
    7. bituminous shale;
    8. oil shale.
  2. A pit or quarry, other than a pit or quarry exempted under Section 4 of the regulations for the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal,that is larger than 4 ha in area for extracting on the following:
    1. ordinary stone;
    2. building or construction stone;
    3. sand;
    4. gravel;
    5. ordinary soil.
C. Transportation
  1. The construction of a new paved highway that is longer than 2 km and is designed for 4 or more lanes of traffic.
  2. The construction of a new paved highway that is longer than 10 km and is designed for 2 or more lanes of traffic.
D. Energy
  1. A corridor for 1 or more electric power transmission lines that have a cumulative voltage rating equal to or greater than 345 kVA.
  2. An energy generating facility, other than an emergency generator, that meetsany one of the following:
    1. it has a production rating of at least 2 MW derived from wind, tides or waves,
    2. it has a production rating of at least 2 MW and no more than 25 MW derived fromhydroelectricity, other thanrun-of-the-river facilitiesunder 10 MW,
    3. it has a daily fuel input rating of at least 11 000 GJ and no more than 31 000 GJ derived from natural gas,
    4. it has a daily fuel input rating of at least 250 GJ, and no more than2500 GJ derived from fossil fuels other than natural gas,
    5. it has a daily fuel input rating ofat least 4000 GJ and no more than 10 000 GJ derived from fuels other than fossil fuels, but excluding solar power.
E. Waste Management
  1. A facility for storing, processing, treating or disposing of waste dangerous goods that were not produced at that facility, other than facilities operated by, or on behalf of, a municipality or Provincial agency for waste dangerous goods collected only from residential premises.
  2. A facility for treating, processing or disposing of contaminated materials that is located at a site other than where the contaminated materials originated.
F. Other
  1. An undertaking that involves transferring water between drainage basins, if the drainage area containing the water to be diverted is larger than 1 km2.
  2. An undertaking that disrupts a total of 2 ha or more of any wetland.

Category Class 2
A. Industrial Facilities
  1. A facility for manufacturing, processing or reprocessing radioactive materials.
  2. A heavy water plant.
  3. A pulp mill.
  4. A petrochemical manufacturing plant.
  5. A cement plant.
  6. An oil refinery.
  7. A non-ferrous or ferrous metal smelter.
  8. A lead acid battery plant.
  9. A ferro-alloy plant.
B. Energy
  1. An energy generating facility, other than an emergency generator, that . meets any one of the following:
    1. it has a production rating of more than 25 MW derived from hydroelectricity;
    2. it has a daily fuel input rating of more than 31,000 GJ derived from natural gas;
    3. it has a daily fuel input rating of more than 2,500 GJ derived from fossil fuels other than natural gas;
    4. it has a daily fuel input rating of more than 10,000 GJ from fuels other than fossil fuels, but excluding solar power.
  2. A water reservoir that has a storage capacity of 10 000 000 m3 or more than the mean volume of the natural water body source for which it is a reservoir.
C. Waste Management
  1. A facility for the incineration of municipal solid waste.

3. Do I have to register my existing facility or operation for environmental assessment?

Registration under Part IV of the Environment Act is not required of existing facilities and operations if they were established prior to July 14, 1989 or if they were registered under the 1989 Environmental Assessment Act and regulations. Any modification, extension, abandonment, demolition or rehabilitation of an existing undertaking listed in Schedule A of the Environmental Assessment Regulations which was established either before or after March 17, 1995 may require registration for environmental assessment. The Act and these regulations do not apply to routine maintenance or repair of existing facilities or operations.

4. How long does it typically take to complete an environmental assessment?

A Class 1 environmental assessment typically takes 50 calendar days of process time to complete. However, the assessment may be extended if the Minister decides that more information, a focus report or environmental assessment report is required. The amount of time it takes the proponent to prepare the registration document will depend on the complexity of the undertaking and the amount of information already available.

A Class 2 environmental assessment typically takes 275 calendar days of process time to complete, including the 110 days the Environmental Assessment Board has to conduct a public review or hearings. The proponent has up to 2 years outside of the review time to prepare the environmental assessment report.

5. Who reviews the environmental assessment information?

The environmental assessment information may be reviewed by any member of the general public, interest groups and government departments and agencies such as the following:

Government Department or Agency

Non-Government Organizations First Nations

6. How can the public participate during an environmental assessment?

A number of opportunities exist during an environmental assessment where members of the public can contribute. Depending on the level of assessment, public participation ranges from submitting written comments to making a presentation at a public hearing. At all public participation stages, notices will be published in newspapers, inviting the comments on the development under review at that time.

For Class 1 developments, members of the public will have an opportunity to review and submit comments on the registration document, which will be considered by the Minister for a decision. Other opportunities may exist if the Minister decides that a focus report or an environmental assessment report is required.

For Class 2 developments, members of the public will have an opportunity to review and submit comments on the registration document and the proposed terms of reference, which will be considered by the EA Branch when preparing the final terms of reference for the environmental assessment report. When the environmental assessment report is submitted, members of the public are able to review the report and submit comments, and there may be an opportunity to make a presentation if a public hearing is required.

When environmental assessment information is released to members of the public, the information can be reviewed at anyone of the following locations:

  • Environmental Assessment Branch website (as it becomes available)
  • One of the two public viewing locations provided by the proponent
  • Clean Nova Scotia, 126 Portland Street, Dartmouth, NS
  • Ecology Action Centre, 2705 Fern Lane, Halifax, NS
  • Nova Scotia Environment, Local Office
  • Nova Scotia Environment, 5th Floor Library, 5151 Terminal Road, Halifax, NS

Comments received during the public review periods will be considered by the Minister when making a decision. Should the Minister decide that there are no adverse effects or significant environmental effects associated with the development, and the project is approved to proceed, your comments may still be incorporated into the conditions of approval, which the proponent must abide by.

All comments submitted become part of the public record and are available to all Nova Scotians at the Nova Scotia Environment Library.

7. How is the public notified about an environmental assessment?

The proponent is required to publish a public notification when they have registered their undertaking for environmental assessment. The notice must be published in one newspaper having general circulation in the locality in which the undertaking is to be located and one newspaper having Province-wide circulation. Where there is no newspaper having general circulation in the locality in which the undertaking is to be located, the notice must be posted in the municipal building, post office or other public building in that locality. The notice must include the following information:

  • the name and address of the proponent;
  • the proposed location of the proposed undertaking;
  • the nature of the proposed undertaking;
  • the date of registration pursuant to the Act and regulations;
  • the proposed commencement date and project schedule where applicable; and
  • locations where registration information may be viewed by the public.

The Environmental Assessment Administrator is required to publish a public notification when a focus report, terms of reference and environmental assessment report has been released to the public and when a public hearing is scheduled. These notices must be published in the same manner as the registration of undertaking.