Ontario Environmental Assessments - Background Information

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The Environmental Assessment Act, passed by the Ontario government in 1975, sets up a process for reviewing the environmental impact of proposed activities prior to the granting of government funds.

The act applied to government ministries and agencies, conservation authorities and municipalities. The act does not apply to private projects unless a special regulation is passed. The Minister of the Environment can, with Cabinet approval, exempt proponents, classes of undertakings or individual undertakings from the EA process.

The undertaking can be assessed individually or as part of a class (i.e. a type of activity with common characteristics and potential effects.).

The process involves several steps:

  1. The proponent, in consultation with the Environmental Assessment Branch, if their undertaking is subject to the Act. If the undertaking falls outside the Act, then the proponent can proceed without further study.

  2. The proponent submits an EA to the Ministry of the Environment. The EA describes the undertaking and its potential affect on the environment. Possible alternatives to the activity are outlined.

  3. The Environmental Assessment Branch circulates the EA for government review to all interested provincial ministries and agencies, as well as federal bodies. The Branch prepares a summary review.

  4. The Minister releases the EA and its government review to the public for comment (minimum 30 days).

  5. At the end of the public review, the Minister can decide to accept the EA or to hold a hearing.

  6. If the Minister accepts the EA, a 15-day public review is held. If no requests for a hearing emerge, the Minister can decide, with Cabinet approval, to accept the EA.

  7. If the Minister decides to hold a hearing, Notice is sent out to the proponent, reviewers and the affected public. Pre-hearing meetings or preliminary hearings may be held to exchange documents and determine the issues.

  8. The EA Board writes its decision based on the hearing testimony.

  9. The Minister has 28 days to rescind the Board's decision or request another hearing.

Consolidated Hearings Act

The Consolidated Hearings Act applies to undertakings falling under two or more specified statutes dealing with the environment and land-use planning (e.g. the EA Act, the Municipal Act and the Planning Act). The Act allows for one joint hearing to be conducted by the involved boards.

Some Useful Documents on the EA Process in Ontario

Canadian Environmental Assessment Research Council. Municipal Land Use Planning and Environmental Assessment: An Inquiry into the Nature and Potential for Municipal Environmental Assessment in Ontario. 1993.
Microlog 94 - 04307 (MILLS Gov Pubs (mfiche))

Ontario. Environmental Assessment Act: Revised Statutes of Ontario, 1990, ch. E18, as amended. 1994.
CA2 ON YX 74 -90E18 (MILLS Gov Pubs)

Ontario. Environmental Assessment Board. Annual Report of the Ontario Environmental Assessment Board.
CA2 ON EV. 710 -A56 (MILLS Gov Pubs)

Ontario. Legislative Assembly. Legislative Library. Ontario's Environmental Assessment Process: Debates and Directions. 1990
CA2 ON YL 21 90P00 (MILLS Gov Pubs (mfiche))

Ontario. Legislative Assembly. Legislative Library. Ontario's First Timber Management Class Environmental Assessment. 1991.
CA2ON YL -91P04 (MILLS Gov Pubs (mfiche))

Ontario. Ministry of Environment and Energy. An Introduction to Environmental Assessment in Ontario. 1994.
CA2ON EV -94I52 (MILLS Gov Pubs)

Ontario. Ministry of Environment and Energy. A Plain Language Guide to the Environmental Assessment Act. 1994.
CA2ON EV -94P44 (MILLS Gov Pubs)

Ontario. Ministry of the Environment. Environmental Assessment Branch. Citizens' Guide to Environmental Assessment. 1988.
CA2ON EV 170 -88E51 (MILLS Gov Pubs)

Ontario Waste Management Corporation. Environmental Assessment B6, Human Health and Special Waste. 1986.
CA2ON WMC -86S206 (MILLS Gov Pubs)

Ontario Waste Management Corporation. Environmental Assessment B7, Hazardous Waste Management Options for Ontario. 1986.
CA2ON WMC -86E5207 (MILLS Gov Pubs)