Governments sharing responsibility for environmental assessment

Susan Bromm of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency speaks at a recent Forum conference on federalism and environmental assessment.

Federal governments, regional governments and even cities are now doing environmental impact assessments before approving major projects. How they co-operate can make the difference between success and failure for an environmental policy.

This interaction between environmental assessment and federalism was the focal point of a comparative study and two-day international conference, on Sept. 14 and 15, 2009, organized by the Forum of Federations and held in Ottawa.

The conference explored how federal and constituent unit governments collaborate on assessments, the relationship between environmental assessment and the broader regulatory process and emerging methods of assessments including consultation with major stakeholders.

Susan Bromm, Director of Federal Activities at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), explained how state, federal and tribal agencies work together under the National Environmental Policy Act, known as NEPA.

"State, local and tribal governments can be a co-lead with the federal government on a project if they have a ‘little NEPA’ as 17 states and three territories now do, » she explained.

"Under the U.S. Clean Air Act, the EPA was given the responsibility to review the environmental assessments of other federal agencies in a system that is very public, » she added.

The event attracted more than 70 participants from around the world, including environmental experts from state and federal governments in Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany and the U.S. as well as representatives of industry and Non Government Organizations. The conference was organized in co-operation with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the Department of Natural Resources Canada.

Other presenters at the conference included: George Anderson (Forum of Federations) Peter Sylvester (Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency); Bob Connelly (consultant); Yves Leboeuf (Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency); Robin Junger (Government of British Columbia); Bas Cleary (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador); Stephen Hazell (Sierra Club of Canada); Justyna Laurie-Lean (Mining Association of Canada); William Kennedy (formerly of Commission for Environmental Cooperation); Horst G. Greczmiel (US Council on Environmental Quality); Tom Livers (Government of Montana); Hobson Bryan (University of Alabama); Gerard Early (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Government of Australia); Paul Vogel (Environmental Protection Authority, Government of Western Australia); Garry Middle (Curtin University); Elizabeth Dowdeswell (formerly of United Nations Environment Program); Waltraud Petek (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Environment and Water Management, Government of Austria); Thomas Fischer (University of Liverpool); Matthias Weigand (Government of state of Bavaria); Andreas Sommer (Government of province of Salzburg); Brenda Kenny (Canadian Energy Pipeline Association); and Jamie Kneen (MiningWatch Canada).

Presentations from the conference (Microsoft Powerpoint .ppt files):

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