Canada aims to rewrite environmental law

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Science  30 Sep 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6307, pp. 1480
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6307.1480

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Four years ago, under Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada rewrote the nation's rules for assessing the environmental impacts of projects such as mines, dams, and pipelines. The 2012 rewrite of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) cut the number of mandatory reviews from thousands to a handful, reduced input from independent experts and the public, and shifted some oversight from national to provincial governments. Harper said the changes were needed to modernize the rules and spur economic growth. But many of the nation's environmental scientists were dismayed, saying the changes snubbed science and put key ecosystems at risk. Now, under new Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, researchers are getting a chance to help rewrite the rules again. This month, an expert panel appointed by Trudeau's government launched a 3-month-long, nationwide listening tour to collect ideas for revising the CEAA. Its goal is to issue recommendations on how Trudeau can fulfill his promises to "restore confidence" in Canada's environmental reviews and "ensure that decisions on major projects are based on science, facts, and evidence." The effort—part of Trudeau's broader push to revamp Canada's environmental policies—is likely to fuel fierce debate.