Environmental groups call for revision of draft environmental assessment regulation

Draft regulation omits projects that may pose serious health and safety risks: environmental groups

Environmental groups call for revision of draft environmental assessment regulation

Several environmental groups have appealed to the Ontario government to revise a draft regulation issued under the amended Environmental Assessment Act (EAA).

In November 2021, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks issued draft regulations that provide greater clarity and transparency for proponents, stakeholders, governmental officials, and public members regarding the types of projects that will or will not require an environmental assessment under the amended EAA.

The draft regulations include a draft project list regulation, which identifies the activities that fall within the list of designated projects and require a comprehensive environmental assessment under the supervision of the environmental ministry and approval by the provincial cabinet.

Through a joint letter, Canadian Environmental Law Association, Northwatch, Friends of the Attawapiskat River, Ontario Nature, Earthroots, Wildlands League, Ontario Rivers Alliance, Clean North, David Suzuki Foundation and Toronto Environmental Alliance urged the provincial government to revise the draft project list regulation to ensure that it fully complies with the stated purpose of the EAA.

In their letter, the environmental groups claimed that the proposed list of designated projects in the draft regulation is “not credible or comprehensive because it inexplicably omits numerous types of private sector projects, activities, or facilities that may pose serious risks to the environment or human health and safety.” For instance, the draft regulation does not include any mining projects.

“As observed by the Auditor General’s 2015 report, this continuing omission leaves Ontario as the only province in Canada that does not require a provincial environmental assessment to be performed for mining projects,” they said.

The environmental groups also claimed that the draft regulation omits several types of projects that are otherwise on project lists in one or more other jurisdictions across Canada, such as:

  • Pipelines
  • Municipal wastewater facilities
  • Asphalt plants
  • Pits and quarries
  • Major residential developments
  • Ferry terminals, ports or harbours
  • Fish hatcheries and aquaculture facilities
  • Oil refineries, petroleum storage facilities and liquefied natural gas facilities
  • Nuclear facilities
  • Tourist destination resort projects

“We acknowledge that many of the above-noted project types designated in other jurisdictions are subject to quantitative thresholds, location-based criteria, or certain exceptions,” they said. “However, it is noteworthy that these project types are wholly absent from Ontario’s draft regulation.”

To resolve the matter, the environmental groups asked the environmental ministry to consider these projects as potential candidates for designation in the draft regulation, with or without appropriate thresholds or criteria.

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