Environmental Regulatory Compliance for
Highway Development and Operations

Environmental Assessment — Federal

Potential Approval, Permit or Code of Practice Requirements:

  • Designated physical activities review under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act


The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012) came into force in July, 2012 and completely replaces the former Act. Project screening assessments, required under the former CEAA Act, are no longer required under the new Act and only projects meeting the requirements as set out in the Regulations Defining Physical Activities (CEAA 2012) are now captured. 

The specific Regulations Defining Physical Activities relevant to highway projects and gravel operations are provided below. 

(1) The construction, operation, decommissioning and abandonment, in a wildlife area or migratory bird sanctuary, of;

(h) a railway line or public highway

(20) The construction, operation, decommissioning and abandonment, or an expansion that would result in an increase in production capacity of more than 35%, of;

(i) a stone quarry or gravel or sand pit with a production capacity of 1 000 000 t/a or more

(28) The construction, operation, decommissioning and abandonment of:

(b) an all-season public highway that will be more than 50 km long and either will be located on a new right-of-way or will lead to a community that lacks all-season public highway access;

If a highway project or gravel operation meets the above threshold(s) and/or criteria, then a description of the project must be provided to CEAA (for specifics on this please see – Prescribed Information for the Description of a Designated Project Regulations) once received CEAA will have 45 days to determine if a federal environmental assessment is required.

Other notable changes in CEAA 2012 include:

  1. A final environmental assessment decision must be made by the Agency on or before 365 days from the commencement of the assessment by the Agency
  2. An opportunity for public participation is provided during all environmental assessments
  3. Follow-up programs are mandatory after all environmental assessments
  4. For projects on federal lands that are not designated projects, CEAA 2012 requires that before federal authorities make any decision that would allow a project to proceed, they must determine whether a project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects

When a project is subject to both the BCEAA and the CEAA environmental assessment regimes, the process can be coordinated in accordance with the Canada-British Columbia Environmental Assessment Cooperation Agreement.


Relevant Section or Regulation:

Regulating Agency:


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