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What is an Environmental Assessment?

An environmental assessment is an evaluation of the potential impact of a proposed activity or facility on the water, land, air and wildlife surrounding it.

The practice of conducting EA's emerged in the 1960's but gained real prominence during the late 1970's and early 1980's when megaprojects, such as the Mackenzie Valley Gas Pipeline, were being proposed.

Environmental Assessments are conducted by all levels of government. The federal government established the Federal Environmental Assessment Review Office (FEARO) to oversee its activities in 1973. Ontario passed its Environmental Assessment Act in 1975. Most other provinces followed suit between 1975 and 1988. Many municipalities, regional governments and planning authorities have incorporated the EA process into their own activities. Various levels of government often work together on joint assessment.

Dozens of environmental assessments are conducted each year across the country. McMaster University attempts to acquire all assessments deemed to be of interest to its students, faculty and researchers. Special emphasis is placed on assessments conducted in the local area.

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