Ontario has released a draft of a new project list regulation that describes projects that will be subject to a comprehensive environmental assessment (EA) under the amended Environmental Assessment Act.
Now, all provincial government activities, plans or proposals are subject to EA unless exempted. With a project list, all projects are exempted from a comprehensive EA unless included on the list.
A project list is consistent with the approach taken federally and by several provinces. The federal government is in the process of finalizing a new project list regulation, for instance, under its new Impact Assessment Act. Ontario says its project list will take into account the federal project list in order to eliminate as much duplication as possible and enhance the likelihood that projects subject to both federal and provincial assessment can proceed under a single process.
Ontario says its proposed project list is intended to capture projects that have the potential for significant environmental impacts taking into account:
- the magnitude of the effect
- its geographic extent
- its duration
- its frequency
- its degree of reversibility
- the likelihood of its occurrence.
Ontario currently has three regulations — Electricity Projects Regulation (O. Reg. 116/01), Waste Management Projects Regulation (O. Reg. 101/07), and Transit Projects and Metrolinx Undertakings Regulation (O. Reg. 231/08) — that provide exemptions from a comprehensive EA. The proposed project list will continue those exemptions.
Projects that fall outside those exemptions would be subject to a comprehensive EA. Examples include:
- a new hydroelectric facility with a capacity greater than or equal to 200 megawatts
- a new electricity generating facility that uses oil for fuel with a capacity greater than or equal to 5 megawatts
- a new landfill with a total waste disposal volume greater than 100,000 m3
- a new hazardous waste disposal site
- a new thermal treatment site, though with several caveats.
New provincial freeways and associated transitways, including extensions to existing freeways and transitways that are greater than 75 kilometres in length, would be subject to a comprehensive EA, as would the decommissioning of an existing expressway and transitway by a municipality.
Other projects captured under the proposed project list include some conservation projects and railway lines longer than 50 kilometres.
If, and to what extent, mines will be subject to a comprehensive EA is still up in the air. Some will be subject to a federal impact assessment. Others are now subject to multiple Class EAs. Ontario’s objective is “one project, one assessment,” and it is seeking comments on how that would best be achieved with the proposed project list.
The full proposal was loaded onto the Environmental Registry of Ontario on September 11, 2020 for comments until November 10, 2020.