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
Proposal
Proposal 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

Proposal summary

We are proposing to introduce amendments to the Environmental Assessment Act, which, if passed, would help the ministry to modernize by focusing on projects that pose actual, real risks to our environment and communities, streamlining approval timelines and eliminating duplication.

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

Some supporting materials may not be available online. If this is the case, you can request to view the materials in person.

Get in touch with the office listed below to find out if materials are available.

Client Services and Permissions Branch
Address

135 St. Clair Avenue West
1st Floor
Toronto, ON
M4V1P5
Canada

Office phone number

Comment

Commenting is now closed.

The comment period was from April 25, 2019
to May 25, 2019

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