Abolition of the requirement to provide a certificate of non-contravention of municipal bylawsBy Sophie Prégent
On March 23, 2017, the National Assembly of Québec adopted Bill 102, an Act to amend the Environment Quality Act to modernize the environmental authorization scheme and to amend other legislative provisions, in particular to reform the governance of the Green Fund.
The initiative significantly reforms the environmental authorization process and aims to improve turnaround times by simplifying and clarifying the steps to review applications. As soon as most of the sections come into effect on March 23, 2018, projects will be categorized based on their level of environmental risk and supervised according to this classification.
Among the most significant impacts that the reform will have on municipalities is the immediate repeal of Section 8 of the Regulation respecting the application of the Environment Quality Act (CQLR, c. Q-2, r.3), which required that a certificate attesting that a project's execution does not violate municipal bylaws be provided to the Ministre du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques when submitting an application for an environmental authorization.
Parliamentary debates indicate that, with the repeal, the Minister seeks to avoid situations in which a municipality refuses to issue a certificate attesting to the non-contravention of municipal bylaws without a valid reason.
The requirement to provide a certificate of non-contravention of municipal bylaws has therefore been replaced with the requirement for an applicant to provide an authorization to forward a copy of the application to the municipality on the territory on which the proposed project will be undertaken.
The integration of this new obligation into the Environment Quality Act responds to the concerns expressed by municipalities with regard to the importance of informing them of the projects that are under development on their territory. However, the change brings about considerable impacts since municipalities will no longer play a formal role in the assessment of applications for a certificate of authorization from the Minister under section 22 of the Environment Quality Act.
From now on, municipalities must ensure compliance with municipal bylaws as a project is carried out on the territory. Mechanisms must therefore be implemented to quickly analyze the documents that are submitted in order to ensure that an initiative complies with municipal regulations.
Developers must keep in mind the importance of beginning the process with the municipality early on so as to avoid being issued an environmental authorization for an unviable project that violates municipal bylaws.
Collaboration between all project stakeholders upstream of projects will undoubtedly prove to be the key to the success of this new measure.