Modernizing Ontario’s environmental assessment program - Environmental Assessment Act

ERO number
013-5102
Notice type
Act
Act
Environmental Assessment Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Notice stage
Decision
Decision posted
Comment period
April 25, 2019 - May 25, 2019 (30 days) Closed
Last updated

This consultation was open from:
April 25, 2019
to May 25, 2019

Decision summary

We made changes to the Environmental Assessment Act through Bill 108, More Homes, More Choice Act, 2019. These changes help the ministry to modernize by focusing on projects that pose actual, real risks to our environment and communities.

Decision details

Changes to the Environmental Assessment Act

The More Homes, More Choice Act, 2019 was passed on June 6, 2019 resulting in immediate changes to the Environmental Assessment Act. The changes to the Environmental Assessment Act included:

  • exempting low-impact projects set out in schedules, groups, or categories in an approved class environmental assessment from environmental assessment requirements (see below for a list of low-impact projects and their associated class environmental assessments)
  • allowing for class environmental assessments to specify that the Environmental Assessment Act does not apply to a group of projects, including following a screening process, resulting in an exemption from the Environmental Assessment Act for projects in the group
  • setting out the minister’s and tribunal’s authority to ask for additional information on an individual environmental assessment when reconsidering an approval issued under the Environmental Assessment Act
  • updating and clarifying the process for amending class environmental assessments to align study requirements with the potential for negative environmental impacts, reducing duplication and increasing efficiency

The amendments to the Environmental Assessment Act also included changes to come into force on proclamation to section 16 of theEnvironmental Assessment Act to address concerns associated with the Part II Order process. The ministry is proposing additional amendments to modify the Part II Order process and is proposing to repeal these unproclaimed provisions of the More Homes, More Choice Act, 2019. Please refer to ERO 019-2051 (Environmental Assessment Act Amendments) for additional information.

Modernizing Ontario’s environmental assessment program

Ontario is committed to building a strong environmental assessment program that supports strong environmental oversight and a strong economy.

As a first step, we released the 'Modernizing Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Program' discussion paper in April 2019, which outlined the challenges with our current framework and introduced our vision for a modern environmental assessment framework. Refer to ERO 013-5101 to view this proposal posting.

We then amended the Environmental Assessment Act through the More Homes, More Choice Act, 2019 to address challenges with the environmental assessment program while we worked on changes to implement the government’s long-term vision. These amendments included exempting low-impact projects, such as constructing roadside parks and adding bike lanes from environmental assessment requirements. Refer to section above titled “Changes to the Environmental Assessment Act.”

We are also working with holders of class environmental assessments to propose sensible, practical changes that would ensure strong environmental oversight while eliminating duplication and reducing delays on projects that matter most to Ontario communities. Refer to ERO 019-1712 for additional information.

We are also proposing enabling amendments to the Environmental Assessment Act that if passed will allow the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks to develop regulations to reduce delays and focus the ministry’s efforts on projects that have a higher potential to impact the environment. Refer to ERO 019-2051 for additional information. The ministry will develop and consult on subsequent implementing regulations in the coming months.

Through these proposed changes, we’re findings ways to work smarter in order to bring important public services and infrastructure and jobs to communities faster while protecting our environment.

Other information

For more information on the current environmental assessment program please visit https://www.ontario.ca/page/environmental-assessments.

The projects set out in the categories/groups/schedules noted below, as of May 1, 2019, are exempted from environmental assessment requirements. These categories/groups/schedules in their respective Class Environmental Assessments contain very low impact projects:

Comments received

Through the registry

27

By email

23

By mail

0
View comments submitted through the registry

Effects of consultation

We received a total of 51 comments (includes one verbal comment) from a wide range of interested parties, including:

  • Indigenous communities
  • members of the public
  • industry/industry associations
  • non-governmental organizations

Overall, most comments supported the proposed amendments to the Environmental Assessment Act and the government’s work to modernize the environmental assessment program.

However, some interested parties expressed concerns regarding:

  • the impact on consultation opportunities and the environment by exempting low-impact projects
  • restricting the ability to request a Part II Order to Ontario residents
  • limited time to comment on the proposed amendments
  • the need for broader reform of the bump-up process and provided suggestions, such as using a third-party body to adjudicate and impose fees for requests
  • policy changes would impact aboriginal and treaty rights and remove triggers for the duty to consult and accommodate

Ontario is committed to building a strong environmental assessment program that considers the input of local communities and focuses on projects that have the highest impact to the environment.

Consideration was given to all comments as part of our ongoing work to modernize the environmental assessment program. The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks will continue to seek a balance between different views to ensure our solutions reflect that balance. We are committed to continuing to engage as we move forward on environmental assessment modernization initiatives.

We are also satisfied that the changes to the Environmental Assessment Act to date are appropriate to ensure that:

  • time and resources of interested parties involved in the environmental assessment process are efficiently focused on higher-impact projects that have the greatest potential for negative environmental effects
  • the changes would not negatively impact the environment

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Original proposal

ERO number
013-5102
Notice type
Act
Act
Environmental Assessment Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Proposal posted

Comment period

April 25, 2019 - May 25, 2019 (30 days)

Proposal details

Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Act was enacted in 1975 and sets out the framework for the environmental assessment program. Environmental assessments are a critical feature of environmental planning decision-making in Ontario, requiring the study and documentation of potential effects of a project, and allowing interested persons to comment on projects that may affect them.

The Environmental Assessment Act was the first of its kind in Canada, but after almost 50 years it largely remains the same. Over time, the process has become more complex, requiring analysis of social, economic, cultural, health and environmental factors. Efforts to update the environmental assessment program have been sporadic and the program has become overly complex and burdensome, discouraging job-creators from coming to Ontario to do business.

In the Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan, the government committed to modernize Ontario’s environmental assessment program to ensure strong environmental protections, while eliminating duplication, streamlining processes, providing clarity to applicants, improving service standards to reduce delays, and better recognize other planning processes that have evolved over the past four decades.

We are proposing to make amendments to the Environmental Assessment Act that would, if passed:

  • Modernize the environmental assessment program to focus on higher-risk projects by exempting very low-risk activities (e.g. snow plowing and de-icing operations, constructing roadside parks and adding bike lanes) from Class Environmental Assessments. These exempted activities have been classified as low-risk following comprehensive consultation on the Class Environmental Assessment involving the Ministry, the public, Indigenous communities and other stakeholders. Between 2012 and 2017, only 2 of the 172 decisions made on requests for a higher level of assessment (i.e. bump-up requests) pertained to low-risk activities.  As well, most of the activities to be exempted remain subject to environmental and planning permits and approvals.

    Focusing the environmental assessment program on higher-risk projects is consistent with the approach currently taken by other jurisdictions in Canada, which do not have environmental assessment requirements for low risk projects o begin with. A list of low risk projects to be exempted and their associated Class Environmental Assessments is included below.
  • Ensure timeliness and certainty for the review of requests to the Minister asking for a higher level of assessment on a project (i.e. “bump-up”), including:
  1. Clearly defining which matters bump-ups can be requested on, including matters related to Aboriginal or treaty rights and other matters of provincial importance as prescribed.
  2. Authorizing the creation of a regulation that would prescribe limits on when the Minister must make decisions on requests, and deadlines for requesting a bump-up to provide transparency for all involved in the process.
  3. Ensuring that Ontarians are given priority over other interests by limiting bump-up requests to only those that live in Ontario.
  • Clarify the Minister’s authority to reconsider an approval of a project and ask for additional information on an individual environmental assessment, if deemed appropriate.

Purpose of act

The proposed amendments to the Environmental Assessment Act are part of a larger effort to modernize Ontario’s environmental assessment program. The proposed immediate actions outlined above, will reduce regulatory burden and improve the efficiency of class environmental assessments in Ontario.

We are also consulting on our vision for a modern Environmental Assessment program. For more information, visit Environmental Registry 013-5101.

There will be opportunities to consult on prescribed regulations at a later date.

Other information

For more information on the current environmental assessment program please visit https://www.ontario.ca/page/environmental-assessments

The projects within the categories/groups/schedules noted below are proposed to be exempted from environmental assessment requirements. These categories/groups/schedules contain the lowest-risk projects in their respective Class Environmental Assessment.

Schedules A and A + of the  Municipal Class Environmental Assessment

Category A of the Class Environmental Assessment for Public Works

Category A of the Class Environmental Assessment for Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves

Category A of the Class Environmental Assessment for Resource Stewardship and Facility Development Projects

Category A of the Class Environmental Assessment for Activities of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines under the Mining Act

Group A of the GO Transit Class Environmental Assessment

Group D of the Class Environmental Assessment for Provincial Transportation Facilities
 

Other public consultation opportunities

The ministry will be consulting on regulations that are developed as a result of these changes to the Environmental Assessment Act at a later date.

The ministry is planning to host webinars for Indigenous communities and organizations, as well as stakeholder groups.

Supporting materials

View materials in person

Important notice: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, viewing supporting materials in person is not available at this time.

Please reach out to the Contact listed in this notice to see if alternate arrangements can be made.

Comment

Commenting is now closed.

This consultation was open from April 25, 2019
to May 25, 2019

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