October 31, 2011 – Streamlined Environmental Approvals for Ontario

Ontario’s new environmental approvals regime  came into effect today under amendments introduced into the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) and the Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA) by the Open for Business Act.

The new requirements apply to approvals under subsections 9(1) EPA (discharges to the natural environment), 27(1) EPA  (Waste Approvals) and 53(1) OWRA (sewage works).

The regime is risk based. Prescribed lower-risk activities can be registered online on the Environmental Activity and Sector Registry. They will be subject to standard conditions. No approval is required.  So far, heating systems, standby power systems and automotive refinishing are the only activates to be prescribed (O. Reg. 245/11). The MOE Director can, in certain circumstances, refuse or disapply registration. To the consternation of some environmental groups, the notice, comment and third party appeal provisions of the Environmental Bill of Rights do not apply to registrations.

Activities that are not eligible for registration require an Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) from the Ministry of the Environment (MOE).  The requirements for an ECA application are set out in O. Reg. 255/11. The application must be “complete” or the MOE may return it.

The MOE Director may grant a single ECA for multiple activities at a single site and for activities conducted at multiple sites but this is not presently mandatory. The holder of an ECA may apply to have it reviewed at any time and must do so by any date specified for such a review, by the Director, in the ECA or by regulation.

The applicant and third parties have the same rights of appeal to the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) against the grant or refusal of an ECA as existed previously. In addition, the Director has power to refer an application for hearing by the ERT before granting an ECA.

Transitional provisions deal with the situation where applications were in process on October 31, 2011.  Existing certificates of approval are treated as ECAs.

For more information about these changes, visit Environmental Approvals on the MOE website.

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