Exploring changes to streamline the permit-by-rule framework

ERO number
Notice type
Environmental Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Notice stage
Proposal posted
Comment period
August 31, 2023 - October 30, 2023 (60 days) Closed
Last updated

This consultation was open from:

August 31, 2023
to October 30, 2023

Proposal summary

We are exploring opportunities to expand and improve Ontario’s permit-by-rule framework. This will help us propose improvements to Ontario’s environmental permissions.

Proposal details

Advancing provincial priorities

Ontario is continuing to modernize its environmental permissions to be more efficient for critical infrastructure projects.

The ministry is seeking input on how to expand the use of its permit-by-rule framework to reduce delays on projects that matter most to Ontario communities, such as new housing and job-creating businesses.

To support the expansion of the permit-by-rule framework, the ministry is also seeking input on how to improve the framework to ensure environmental protections remain in place.

Expanding Ontario’s Permit-By-Rule Framework

Ontario’s current permit-by-rule framework allows proponents to self-register activities on the ministry’s online Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR) and start work immediately instead of waiting up to a year for a ministry review.

The permit-by-rule framework includes two main types of EASRs: assessed EASRs and rules based EASRs.

  • Assessed EASRs set out eligibility criteria and allow an eligible activity to register. The eligible activities are required to have a qualified person prepare technical assessments that have to be assessed against established environmental outcomes, for example, an air standard. Once registered, they are required to comply with prescribed rules set out in regulation.
  • Rules based EASRs also set out eligibility criteria and allow an eligible activity to register but do not require a qualified person to assess against established outcomes. Once registered, they are required to comply with prescribed rules set out in regulation.

Ontario is seeking input on where we can expand the use of these approaches to allow more activities to get their permission through a permit-by-rule approach.

  1. Enable more activities to register for a permission when they demonstrate they meet established environmental outcomes (assessed EASR)

    To move more activities to a permit-by-rule framework faster, Ontario is exploring allowing a wider range of activities to register where proponents demonstrate, through a technical assessment, that activities can meet established environmental outcomes, such as air emission or water discharge standards. A technical assessment conducted by a qualified person such as a professional engineer or a professional geoscientist and technical studies may be required to show how activities would meet specific outcomes. A current example of this approach is Ontario’s water taking EASR regulation (O. Reg. 63/16), which requires the registered activity to meet a certain turbidity discharge limit but does not prescribe how the limit must be met.

    For certain activities the ministry is considering whether the assessment should be subject to a peer review (e.g., by a third-party consultant). This would help to ensure environmental oversight for these activities.

    Developing more assessed EASRs would allow more activities to move to a permit-by-rule approach faster since the ministry would not have to develop sector-specific rules for each activity, which can be a lengthy process.

    Today, the ministry has a robust set of environmental outcomes for activities that emit contaminants into the air, such as air standards, but lacks similar environmental outcomes for many activities requiring environmental permissions. The ministry uses a site-specific approach for most types of activities and sectors where sites are governed by terms and conditions in environmental compliance approvals (permissions that require ministry review) which means companies have to work with the ministry to establish criteria, which can take months to complete.

    We would like to establish robust environmental outcomes for more sectors and establish more assessed EASRs that:

    • require proponents to meet established discharge criteria
    • allow them to select the technology needed to achieve this as confirmed by qualified persons.

    For example, aggregate operations may be well-suited to an assessed EASR given that the technology to achieve required outcomes (such as ensuring water quality is protected) can vary from site to site.

    Having clear, established outcomes for industries and sectors:

    • helps to move more activities to a permit-by-rule approach
    • improves consistency and transparency

    The ministry is also exploring other possible eligibility criteria that could be used for different activities and sectors, including making activities eligible to register if they follow:

    • recognized industry technical and design standards
    • standard operational procedures
    • best practices

    These could be incorporated into both the assessed and rules based EASRs.

    Discussion Questions

    In addition to the types of outcomes mentioned above, can you please provide suggestions of other types of outcomes that the ministry could establish to facilitate moving more activities that are currently required to obtain a ministry-reviewed permission to an assessed EASR?

    Do you think that aggregate operations, including stormwater and aggregate wash water, would be good candidates for an assessed EASR?

    Do you have any suggestions for the types of outcomes that could be established for aggregate operations?

    Can you suggest other activities that would be better suited to an assessed EASR rather than following a prescribed set of sector-specific rules?

  2. Move more activities to permit-by-rule that must follow prescribed rules once registered (rules based EASR)

    Ontario recognizes that assessed EASRs, which require technical assessments by qualified persons (QPs), may be too costly for some sectors.

    Therefore, we are also considering more candidates for rules based EASRs, which do not require QP assessments or technical studies and instead, requires they meet certain criteria. If criteria are met, the activity would have to be registered, and the registrant would have to follow the prescribed rules applicable to the activity. This approach is similar to existing EASR regulations for end-of-life vehicles and automotive refinishing, which prescribe specific operational rules for these sectors that must be followed after registration.

    We will also continue to consider new candidates for exemptions that would not require any type of environmental permission (either ministry-reviewed or permit-by-rule) for low-risk activities with minimal environmental impact. Exemptions will continue to be subject to ministry inspections and compliance activities.

    Discussion Question

    Can you please provide feedback on which sectors would be better suited to a rules based EASR rather than an assessed EASR?

Exploring improvements to Ontario’s permit-by-rule framework

As Ontario considers expanding what is eligible under the permit-by-rule approach, Ontario is exploring how best to improve its permit-by-rule framework to:

  • streamline permit-by-rule requirements to make them easier to understand
  • develop an online registration system that is easier to use, efficient and effective
  • ensure the improved permit-by-rule framework is protective of the environment

We are exploring the following three changes to improve Ontario’s permit by rule framework, and we are seeking your feedback on this pre-consultation:

  1. Develop a single permit-by-rule regulation
  2. Move prescribed rules governing activities into “codes of practice” outside of regulation
  3. Allow a single registration for a facility

Additional information about each of the improvement options, and discussion questions for your consideration, are outlined in the next section of this notice.

We will use the feedback on the proposed concept for changes to the permit-by-rule framework to inform a more detailed plan for improvements.

Once a detailed plan is developed, we will consult again with stakeholders and Indigenous communities on a more detailed proposal with the goal of continuing to modernize our permissions programs.

Potential improvement options and questions for discussion

  1. Develop a single permit-by-rule regulation

    Ontario is exploring developing a single permit-by-rule regulation to replace existing sector-specific Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR) regulations. This single regulation could be more generic and include minimum requirements that must be met by all permit-by-rule activities.

    A single regulation for permit-by-rule instead of multiple sector-specific EASR regulations would:

    • reduce duplication and inconsistency in general requirements such as reporting, complaints response and record keeping
    • streamline and simplify the permit by rule framework making it easier for proponents to understand and follow requirements instead of having to read several different regulations.

    Discussion Question

    Do you think that a single regulation for permit-by-rule would help improve transparency and support better compliance?

  2. Move sector-specific rules outside of regulation into “codes of practice”

    To further improve the current framework, we are exploring moving prescribed rules outside of regulation into “codes of practice”.

    This would allow the ministry to develop and update rules much faster than we are able to today where a new regulation is created for each new set of rules. Codes of practice would be adopted by reference in the new single regulation and the rules contained in codes of practice would be legally binding requirements.

    Existing EASR regulations would transition into these “codes of practice” and the current regulations would be revoked.

    Discussion Questions

    Do you have any concerns with prescribed rules for permit-by-rule activities, including those in existing EASR regulations, moving to codes of practice outside of regulation?

    Are there existing codes of practice for your industry that could be used as prescribed rules for permit-by-rule?

  3. Allow a single registration for a facility

    Currently proponents must register each activity separately for a given facility.

    To eliminate the need to register multiple times for each activity at the same facility, we are exploring allowing a single registration for all activities at a facility.

    We are also exploring listing all registered activities and proponent obligations on the registration document. These improvements would:

    • make it easier for proponents to register and track their activities and facilities
    • make it easier for proponents to understand and follow permit by rule requirements
    • allow the ministry to take effective compliance action when needed

    Discussion Question

    Do you think that a single registration record showing requirements for all registered activities subject to permit-by-rule is an effective tool to help proponents comply with rules and regulatory requirements?

    What should Ontario include in the single registration to support sectors in understanding their obligations and to support compliance actions to ensure the environment is protected?


Ontario’s risk-based approach to environmental permissions includes a permit-by-rule framework that allows proponents to self-register certain activities online on the Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR) instead of applying for an environmental approval which can take up to a year for the ministry to review.

Today, proponents can self-register for several sectors such as:

  • automotive refinishing
  • commercial printing
  • waste transportation
  • solar facilities
  • end of life vehicle processing
  • construction related water taking
  • certain activities with air emissions

The EASR self-registration program has saved Ontario businesses significant time and money in getting their projects started, while maintaining environmental protection. Registered activities are required to follow a standard set of environmentally protective requirements.

The ministry also maintains the authority to:

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

Regulatory impact statement

The ministry is currently conducting an analysis of the regulatory impact of this proposal and will provide a fulsome analysis once a more detailed proposal on changes to the permit-by-rule framework is submitted for consultation.

Related Postings

In addition, we are also proposing new self-registration rules or exemptions for activities such as certain stormwater management systems, water takings, and waste transportation systems (see Related Postings section below).

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 (Policy and Program Development Section)

135 St. Clair Avenue West
Floor 1
Toronto, ON
M4V 1P5


Commenting is now closed.

The comment period was from August 31, 2023
to October 30, 2023

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