Proposed amendments to regulations made under the Environmental Protection Act and Ontario Water Resources Act to make modifications to Environmental Activity and Sector Registry requirements and exemptions for low risk short-term water taking activities

ERO number
019-2525
Notice type
Regulation
Act
Environmental Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Notice stage
Decision
Decision posted
Comment period
October 6, 2020 - November 20, 2020 (45 days) Closed
Last updated

This consultation was open from:
October 6, 2020
to November 20, 2020

Decision summary

The ministry is moving forward with amending regulations made under the Environmental Protection Act and the Ontario Water Resources Act to streamline permissions for certain low risk short-term water taking activities. These amendments align approval requirements with the activity’s level of risk, while maintaining environmental oversight.

Decision details

Ontario is proceeding with changes to help municipalities and businesses save time and money by moving low-risk, short-term water taking activities, such as pumping tests, to a more flexible environmental approval process. These changes will help get important projects built faster while ensuring that Ontario’s water resources continue to be safeguarded in accordance with the province’s strict environmental standards.

The types of projects that would be subject to the new streamlined permissions process are routine activities that have benefits to communities with low environmental impacts. The changes align approval requirements with the level of impact associated with low risk short-term water taking activities by:

  • allowing self-registration for seven-day pumping tests
  • modifying existing self-registration requirements related to construction site dewatering and road construction (now called ‘highway projects and transit projects’) to remove certain restrictions that did not further environmental outcomes and created undue burden for developers and municipalities
  • modifying existing exemption requirements related to diversions to remove certain restrictions that did not further environmental outcomes

Streamlining permissions saves proponents and municipalities time and money, while ensuring appropriate environmental protections are in place for construction and infrastructure projects. Building infrastructure faster is vital to the province’s economic recovery as it enables trade, supports public transit, creates jobs, and contributes significantly to greenhouse gas reduction, among other benefits.

Water taking activities that are eligible for self-registration are required to meet rigorous requirements that are protective of the environment. The ministry retains the ability to inspect water taking activities to ensure compliance with legal requirements.

The changes allow the ministry to focus its resources on higher risk and more complex water taking activities through the Permit to Take Water process.

Comments received

Through the registry

22

By email

18

By mail

0
View comments submitted through the registry

Effects of consultation

We considered all feedback received during the comment period for this posting. We received a total of 40 comments from a wide range of interested parties, including:

  • members of the public
  • businesses and developers
  • technical consultants
  • industry and professional associations
  • municipalities
  • conservation authorities
  • Indigenous communities and organizations
  • fellow ministries

Most comments support aligning approval requirements with the level of risk of the water taking activity. Many stakeholders expressed that the changes would reduce unnecessary burden for construction and infrastructure projects, expedite the construction of critical transit infrastructure and support new housing supply.

During the proposal posting, the ministry received comments related to the following themes:

  1. potential for reduced ministry oversight and impact on the environment and other water users
  2. self-registration criteria and requirements
  3. site-specific considerations and cumulative effects
  4. well development exemption

1. Potential for reduced ministry oversight and impact on the environment and other water users

Some comments received expressed concern that the proposed changes would reduce ministry oversight and impact the environment and other water users.

The amendments align approval requirements with the level of impact associated with low risk short-term water taking activities, while ensuring appropriate protections are in place to prevent adverse impacts on the environment and other water users.

Registered water taking activities are required to meet rigorous self-registration requirements to ensure that the taking and discharge of the water is conducted in a manner that protects the environment and other water users. These requirements include water taking limits, surface water protection, erosion and sedimentation control, and a technical assessment report prepared by a Qualified Person that includes protective measures to ensure that the water taking does not cause an adverse impact. To ensure that the environment is protected, all registered water taking activities must be conducted in accordance with the site-specific assessment reports.

The ministry retains the ability to inspect water taking activities to ensure compliance with legal requirements.

The changes allow the ministry to focus its resources on higher risk and more complex water taking activities through the Permit to Take Water process.

2. Self-registration criteria and requirements

The ministry received several comments related to the proposed eligibility criteria and regulatory requirements for self-registration. In response to these comments, the ministry has decided to:

  • retain the current flexible discharge criteria for total suspended solids, instead of implementing a fixed limit
  • allow self-registration of pumping tests at any site, except mines
  • increase the water taking eligibility limit for pumping tests from 3 million litres per day to 5 million litres per day
  • proceed with allowing self-registration of pumping tests related to water bottling; long-term water bottling operations will continue to require a Permit to Take Water
  • going forward, registrants are required to notify the local municipalities and conservation authorities if the taking of water is intended to continue for more than 365 days; this is consistent with the Permit to Take Water process

To ensure registered water taking activities are conducted in a manner that does not have an adverse impact on the environment or other water users, all registered water taking activities are required to meet self-registration requirements and adhere to the technical assessment reports prepared by the Qualified Person. The Qualified Person is required to assess the water taking and discharge and include any site-specific taking or discharge controls as needed.

The changes do not affect any notification or consultation requirements under any planning processes that may apply to the construction or infrastructure project. Also, registrants must continue to meet any other applicable regulations or legislation, including municipal bylaws.

3. Site-specific considerations and cumulative effects

We received comments that the ministry should consider cumulative effects, site specific sensitive features and water quantity stressed areas. In response to these comments, the ministry concluded that the self-registration process accounts for site-specific considerations and cumulative impacts.

Registered water taking activities are required to meet rigorous requirements, including a technical report prepared by a Qualified Person that is based on a site-specific assessment. As part of this assessment, the Qualified Person is required to include site-specific considerations and include protective measures and controls to ensure that the water taking is conducted in a manner that does not have an adverse impact on the environment or other water users. All registered water taking activities must be conducted in accordance with the site-specific assessment reports.

4. Well development exemption

The proposal originally included a proposed exemption for well development, which generated interest from multiple stakeholders including recommendations to broaden the exemption to apply to additional well-related activities such as well construction and rehabilitation. The ministry will not pursue this exemption at this time to allow for further analysis of the comments that were received to support evidence-based decision making.

Other comments

We received some comments that were outside the scope of the proposal and which may be considered in the context of other initiatives. For example, we received several comments that the online self-registration system should be improved, as well as comments related to other ministry initiatives, such as the water quantity management framework.

Next steps

We will make updates to the Water taking user guide for Environmental Activity and Sector Registry to support the regulatory amendments.

Supporting materials

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Original proposal

ERO number
019-2525
Notice type
Regulation
Act
Environmental Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Proposal posted

Comment period

October 6, 2020 - November 20, 2020 (45 days)

Proposal details

Purpose of proposed changes

Ontario is proposing changes that would move low-risk, short-term water taking activities, such as pumping tests, to a more flexible approval process to allow businesses to begin operations faster and ensure that Ontario’s water resources continue to be safeguarded in accordance with the province’s strict environmental standards.

Proposed regulatory amendments to the Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR) made under the Environmental Protection Act

We are proposing amendments to the EASR regulation to:

  • introduce certain pumping tests as a new prescribed activity for registration on the EASR
  • modify existing EASR requirements related to construction site dewatering and road construction to remove certain restrictions that do not further environmental outcomes and create undue burden for businesses and individuals

To ensure that the registered water taking activities are carried out in accordance with best management practices and in a manner that is protective of human health and the environment:

  • all registered activities will be required to comply with applicable regulatory requirements designed to protect the natural environment
  • all registered activities will be required to comply with the criteria contained in the EASR regulation, including operating criteria that are protective of the public and the environment, including assessment requirements, public notification protocols, surface water protections, erosion and sediment control measures, contingency plans, record keeping provisions and public complaint procedures
  • all registered activities will be required to be implemented in accordance with a water taking design report that is prepared by a Qualified Person (“QP”), who must meet minimum professional criteria. For example, the QP must be a professional geoscientist or a professional engineer for construction site dewatering
  • the ministry will retain its ability to inspect water taking activities and ensure that they are complying with all necessary legal requirements

While it’s possible that the prescribed activities may interfere with the water supply for other users and may include discharge to the natural environment, the proposed measures will ensure adequate protection of water resources and the environment and minimize impact on other water users. Higher risk and more complex water taking activities, including long-term water taking activities, will continue to be subject to ministry review and require ministry approval to ensure that human health and the environment are protected. This ensures that the level of ministry oversight is proportionate with the potential environmental and human health risks associated with water taking activities.

Registration on the EASR is immediate, which means registrants may complete their assessments, register online and undertake the water taking activity immediately once confirmation of registration has been given. The ministry does not actively review such registrations at first instance. However, registrants will have to abide by all relevant regulatory obligations (including record keeping) related to the registered activity.

The ministry maintains the authority to:

  • inspect facilities
  • ensure compliance with regulatory requirements
  • review records and monitoring reports related to the registered activity

Proposed registration criteria are outlined in the attached discussion paper, including a description of the prescribed activities, eligibility criteria and operating requirements.

Proposed amendments to O. Reg. 387/04 made under the Ontario Water Resources Act

We are proposing amendments to Ontario Regulation 387/04 -Water Taking and Transfer to introduce well development as a new exemption activity, and to remove current restrictions on diversion exemptions.

These proposed exemptions allow the proponent to conduct the activity without obtaining a PTTW or registering on the EASR.

It is proposed that the ministry will maintain the authority to inspect the activities and ensure compliance with all legislative and regulatory requirements.

Proposed exemption details are outlined in the attached discussion paper.

Background

Water taking activities in Ontario are governed by the Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA) and the Water Taking and Transfer Regulation (Ontario Regulation 387/04) under the OWRA. With some exceptions, a Permit to Take Water (PTTW) is required when a person wants to take more than 50,000 litres of water in a day from surface water and/or groundwater sources. In some cases, an Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) may also be required for the discharge of the water that is taken (e.g. construction site dewatering where the taken water is discharged overland).

In 2016, the Water Taking EASR Regulation came into force and Ontario Regulation 387/04 -Water Taking and Transfer was amended to streamline permissions for low risk water taking activities, including construction dewatering and road construction.

How the current proposal streamlines permissions

The current proposal further streamlines the permissions for low risk short-term water taking activities by proposing additional water taking activities for exemption or EASR registration, and by removing restrictions on the current exemption and EASR eligible activities.

This proposal considered impacts to water users and surface water sources to ensure that environmental protection is maintained. The proposal would continue to ensure that water takings in Ontario are managed in accordance with the province’s strict environmental standards, and in keeping with the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement. The ministry will retain its ability to inspect water taking activities and ensure that they are complying with all relevant environmental standards and requirements.

Regulatory impact statement

The proposed amendments are expected to reduce burden on the regulated community and contribute to economic recovery following the state of provincial emergency, primarily for the construction and development sector.

The amendments will result in a higher number of low risk short-term water taking activities being eligible for exemption or registration on the EASR. This will result in an overall reduction in the time, cost and resources that proponents spend on seeking environmental permissions from the ministry.

Reducing regulatory burden for construction activities is expected to make it easier to build infrastructure which is vital to the province’s economic recovery following the state of provincial emergency. Infrastructure enables trade, supports supply chains, connects workers to jobs, provides essential services, protects from increasingly unpredictable weather events and connects households to employment, healthcare and education opportunities. As the backbone of a healthy economy, infrastructure supports public transit, telecommunication, railroads, energy projects, pipelines, water systems and parks. Access to clean energy and public transit contributes significantly to greenhouse gas reduction. Further, infrastructure projects offer thousands of job opportunities each year with low barriers of entry and significant projected growth.

These benefits may be achieved in addition to mitigating impacts to human health and the environment if the water taking activities are conducted in accordance with regulatory requirements. The regulatory requirements mentioned in preceding sections and included in the attached discussion paper are intended to ensure that the registered water taking activities do not have an adverse impact on human health and the environment.

Public consultation opportunities

This proposal has been posted for a 45-day public review and comment period, starting on October 5, 2020. We encourage interested parties to make comments on the proposal, including the attached discussion paper which provides greater detail on the proposed amendments.

Prior proposed amendments to EASR regulations have followed the consultation approach outlined on the MECP's website: https://www.ontario.ca/page/environmental-registration. That process included a second opportunity for public consultation on draft regulations after the posting of a technical discussion paper.

In the interest of limiting duplication, the ministry is not intending to post this proposal a second time with draft regulatory wording. This posting and attached discussion paper are expected to be the only opportunity for public consultation. Comments made on this proposal and discussion paper will be considered in finalizing the regulation.

Comment

Commenting is now closed.

This consultation was open from October 6, 2020
to November 20, 2020

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