Summary of Environmental Law in Canada

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21 Energy

 

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21.1 Institutions with Authority over Energy

 

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According to section 92A (1) of the Canadian Constitution, the provincial legislatures have the power to make laws in relation to the "development, conservation and management of sites and facilities in the province for the generation and production of electrical energy."

International and interprovincial energy matters fall under federal jurisdiction. The main law governing this matter is the National Energy Board Act. The National Energy Board is a quasi-judicial tribunal reporting to Parliament through the Minister of Natural Resources. The Board has the power to regulate the tolls and tariffs of pipeline companies. It issues long-term licences for the export of oil, gas and electricity, usually following a public hearing. In order to issue an energy export licence, the Board must be satisfied that the quantity of energy scheduled to be exported is surplus to reasonably foreseeable Canadian requirements.

The National Energy Board also grants certificates to construct and operate interprovincial and international oil, gas, and petroleum products pipelines. Before these certificates are issued, a public hearing must be held. The Board has the authority to regulate the environmental impact of any pipeline under its jurisdiction, pursuant to the Onshore Pipeline Regulations concerning safe design, construction, and operation of federally regulated pipelines.

Energy projects may require an environmental assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Projects that trigger a federal environmental assessment include projects: initiated by a federal agency or Crown corporation, projects located on federal land, projects requiring federal approval or permit, and projects receiving federal financial assistance.

In some provinces, special independent bodies are in charge of regulating energy utilities. For example, the British Columbia Utilities Commission controls, among other things, the activities of B.C. Hydro. Utilities commissions oversee the rates charged by utilities to the public and ensure that the utilities are providing safe and secure service. However, it is usually the provincial ministry responsible for energy that has the authority to review and approve, with or without the mandatory help of a utilities commission, energy projects which generate, transport, store, and use large quantities of energy.

Energy projects often require the completion of a provincial environmental assessment, depending on the size of the project.

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21.2 Energy Efficiency and Consumption

 

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Federal

The 1994 Canadian National Report on Actions Taken to Meet Commitments Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change outlines many energy policy measures. The national report includes actions in each province that promote or require demand-side management or integrated resource planning.

The federal Energy Efficiency Act allows regulations to be made concerning energy efficiency and alternative energy. In particular, such regulations concern minimum energy efficiency performance standards for energy-using products, the labelling of energy-using products to convey information on their energy efficiency, and the collection of statistics and information on energy use and alternative energy. The federal Department of Natural Resources promotes energy efficiency and alternative energy (EAE) in different program initiatives, including buildings, equipment, transportation, and consumer information. For example, the Federal Buildings Initiative which makes buildings more energy efficient. Since the beginning of the program, more than 4000 federal government buildings have undergone the energy retrofits. In 1998, the program has been expanded to allow private sector building owners, with a lease agreement in place with the government, to participate in this program.

Provinces

Provinces with a provincial utilities commission often require utilities to file integrated resource plans demonstrating how the utility intends to incorporate social and environmental costs in decision-making about future resource options.

Furthermore, large utilities such as British Columbia Hydro, Ontario Hydro, and Hydro-Québec, have started voluntary programs which promote energy conservation.

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21.3 Oil and Natural Gas Exploration, Development and Extraction

 

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Oil and gas exploration are subject to the federal Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act. The National Energy Board has regulatory control over the Canada Oil and Gas Lands Administration.

For offshore installations, the right to explore for oil and gas must be acquired from the Canada Oil and Gas Lands Administration pursuant to the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act. Drilling regulations made pursuant to this Act also apply to offshore installations.

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21.4 Hydroelectric Power

 

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Hydroelectricity is regulated by the provinces, because dams, generating stations and distribution systems are "local works and undertakings" as specified in Section 92(10) of the Canadian Constitution.

Since 1982, the provinces also have the right to make laws regarding "the export from the province to another part of Canada" of electricity, among other resources. This power is concurrent to the federal government's trade and commerce power. In the event of a conflict, the federal law prevails.

Provinces often have created a Crown corporation with the mission of supporting the development of that province through the efficient supply of electricity. For example, there are the British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority, Ontario Hydro, and Hydro-Québec.

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21.5 Fossil Fuel Power

 

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Provinces regulate fossil fuel power operations. The plants usually require permits for air emissions, as well as energy operation certificates. Requirements vary from province to province.

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21.6 Nuclear Power

 

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The federal government has exclusive jurisdiction in the field of nuclear energy.

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21.6.1 Construction and Operation of Nuclear Power Plants

 

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On 31 May 2000, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) replced the Atomic Energy Control Board as the regulating agency of the Canadian nuclear sector. The creation of the CNSC stems from the coming into force of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and its regulations. Through a system of permits, the CNSC regulates, among other things:

The construction of nuclear facilities can also be subject to an environmental impact assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (see Chapter 7).

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21.6.2 Fuel Reprocessing and Disposal

 

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See Section 12.3.

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21.6.3 Nuclear Accident Liability Limitations

 

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The Nuclear Liability Act provides for a liability regime with respect to nuclear matters. The maximum compensation under the Act is CND$ 75 million.

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21.7 Renewable Energy Alternatives: Solar, Biomass, Geothermal, Water

 

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Natural Resources Canada and Environment Canada have spearheaded the development of a framework to facilitate the purchase of green power by federal departments. In April 1997, the federal government signed its first green power agreement with the purchase of wind energy in Alberta. Green power is electricity generated in a sustainable fashion from renewable energy sources such as wind, water, solar and biomass. Environment Canada is committed to purchasing 15 to 20 percent of its electricity as green power by 2010.

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2003