08/26/2012 06:01 EDT | Updated 10/26/2012 05:12 EDT

Many Sask. projects no longer need federal assessments

The federal government has cancelled nearly 3,000 environmental assessments across the country, and more than 700 of those tests were for projects in Saskatchewan.

The reviews have been cancelled because Ottawa changed the rules on what requires an environmental assessment when its new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act came into effect on July 6.

The list of projects has been posted on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency's website, ranging from new oil sites on rural and First Nations land to an expansion of a tailings pit at Cameco's Rabbit Lake uranium mine.

"Expanding the tailings dump at one of these mines could be a fairly major undertaking, and if its not engineered properly and if it doesn't have the right sort of scrutiny, things could go wrong," said Jamie Kneen, a spokesman for Mining Watch Canada.

The cancelled assessments — 764 in total in Saskatchewan — also includes a review of a proposed hydro facility at Fond du Lac, as well as a review of Parks Canada's plans for a controlled burn covering nearly 3,750 hectares of land in the southwest corner of Prince Albert National Park.

Other proposed projects that no longer require a federal assessment include:

- Replacement of a bridge in Garden River, Sask.

- Construction of a 48-lot subdivision on the Pasqua First Nation.

- Canadian Pacific Railway's Intermodal Facility at Regina's Global Transportation Hub.

- The Saskatchewan Research Council's plans to rehabilitate the former Lorado Uranium Mill in the northern part of the province.

- Prairie Green Renewable Energy's proposal to build an ethanol manufacturing facility near Hudson Bay, Sask.

Kneen said there is some overlap with reviews from other regulators — such as provincial or regional regulators — for some projects, but overlap can be a good thing.

"It means relying on the provincial process," he said.

"It means relying on municipalities and First Nations government to do what needs to be done, really, and that means that citizens and individuals have to be really vigilant."

Kneen also said there are tighter deadlines for projects that do fall within the federal government's new rules.