Preparing and reviewing environmental assessments in Ontario
This Code of Practice outlines the legislative requirements and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change’s expectations for the preparation and review of an environmental assessment.
This Code of Practice was developed in consultation with government agencies and other interested persons including academics, environmental assessment practitioners, environmental groups, industry associations, professional associations and proponents. We appreciate the contributions that these individuals and groups have made to finalize this document and look forward to continued input to maintain it as an effective tool for use during the environmental assessment process.
Readers should check the Ministry of the Environment’s website or call the Environmental Approvals Access and Service Integration Branch to find out if there have been any revisions.
Ministry of the Environment
Environmental Approvals Access and Service Integration Branch
2 St. Clair Avenue West, Floor 12A
This Code of Practice is published as a living document that will be reviewed and revised as necessary. Any comments, suggestions for revision or clarification are welcomed and should be sent to the Director of the Environmental Approvals Access and Service Integration Branch at the address listed above.
Under section 31(1)(e), the Minister of the Environment may gather, publish and disseminate information with respect to the environment or environmental assessments for the purposes of administrating and enforcing the Environmental Assessment Act and regulations made thereunder. Therefore, the Ministry of the Environment expects that this Code of Practice will be considered by proponents.
Revision 0 - November 2008
Revision 1 - October 2009
Revision 2 - January 2014
The definitions in this glossary are intended to assist the reader in understanding the terms used in this Code of Practice. To understand these terms completely, the Ministry of the Environment recommends that both the definitions in here and in the legislation be consulted. In all cases, the wording contained in the Environmental Assessment Act shall prevail.
- Aboriginal peoples
- The Constitution Act, 1982 specifies that Aboriginal peoples include Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.
- Alternative Methods
- Alternative methods of carrying out the proposed undertaking are different ways of doing the same activity.
Alternative methods could include consideration of one or more of the following: alternative technologies; alternative methods of applying specific technologies; alternative sites for a proposed undertaking; alternative design methods; and, alternative methods of operating any facilities associated with a proposed undertaking.
- Both alternative methods and alternatives to a proposed undertaking.
- Alternatives To
- Alternatives to the proposed undertaking are functionally different ways of approaching and dealing with a problem or opportunity.
- An application for approval to proceed with an undertaking under subsection 5(1) of the Environmental Assessment Act.
- Environmental Approvals Branch, Ministry of the Environment.
- Class Environmental Assessment
- A document that sets out a standardized planning process for those classes or groups of activities for which the applicant is responsible. It is also known as a “parent” document in some class environmental assessments. A class environmental assessment is approved under the Environmental Assessment Act and applies to projects that are carried out routinely and have predictable environmental effects that can be readily managed.Projects defined within a class environmental assessment require no further environmental approval under section 5 of the Environmental Assessment Act, conditional upon being planned according to the procedures set out in the document and not being subject to a Part II Order. All class environmental assessments have a mechanism where the Minister may order that an “individual” environmental assessment be carried out for a particular project, if warranted (Part II Order or “bump- up”).
- Class Environmental Assessment Project
- An undertaking that does not require any further approval under the Environmental Assessment Act if the planning process set out in the class environmental assessment document is followed and successfully completed. Any interested person may request the Minister or delegate to order that a class environmental assessment project be bumped up to an “individual” environmental assessment by making a Part II Order.
- Represents a guarantee from a proponent about a certain course of action, that is, “I will do this, at this time, in this way.” Proponents acknowledge these guarantees by documenting obligations and responsibilities, which they agree to follow, in environmental assessment documentation (terms of reference and environmental assessment). Once the Minister and Cabinet approve an application, the commitments within the document are often made legally binding as a condition of approval.
- Conditions of Environmental Assessment Act approval are legally binding and may be used as a compliance tool. Conditions can determine the way in which detail design, implementation and operation or closure of an undertaking will proceed. Conditions of Environmental Assessment Act approval will depend on the details of the undertaking and the environmental assessment and may be used to address Government Review Team and public and community concerns.
- Consolidated Hearings Act
- A hearing under the Consolidated Hearings Act allows a decision to be made under more than one statute, including the Environmental Assessment Act, Environmental Protection Act, Planning Act, and others through joint hearings.
- A two-way communication process to involve interested persons in the planning, implementation and monitoring of a proposed undertaking. Consultation is intended to:
- Identify concerns;
- Identify relevant information;
- Identify relevant guidelines, policies and standards;
- Facilitate the development of a list of all required approvals, licences or permits;
- Provide guidance to the proponent about the preparation of the terms of reference and environmental assessment;
- Ensure that relevant information is shared about the proposed undertaking;
- Encourage the submission of requests for further information and analysis early in the environmental assessment process;
- Enable the ministry to make a fair and balanced decision.
- Deadlines Regulation
- Refers to Ontario Regulation 616/98, which establishes the timing of reviews and decisions for terms of references and environmental assessments by the ministry.
- Director of the Environmental Assessment and Approvals Branch, Ministry of the Environment.In October 2011, the Environmental Assessment and Approvals Branch underwent a functional reorganization which resulted in the creation of two branches: Environmental Approvals Branch and Environmental Approvals Access and Service Integration Branch. For the purposes of this Code of Practice, the definition of “Director” also refers to the functional position Director, Environmental Approvals Branch.
- Do Nothing Alternative
- An alternative that is typically included in the evaluation of alternatives that identifies the implications of doing nothing to address the problem or opportunity that has been identified.
- The Environmental Assessment Act defines environment to mean:
- Air, land or water;
- Plant and animal life, including human life;
- The social, economic and cultural conditions that influence the life of humans or a community;
- Any building, structure, machine or other device or thing made by humans;
- Any solid, liquid, gas, odour, heat, sound, vibration or radiation resulting directly or indirectly from human activities; or,
- Any part or combination of the foregoing and the interrelationships between any two or more of them.
- Environmental Assessment
- Environmental assessment is a study, which assesses the potential environmental effects (positive or negative) of a proposal. Key components of an environmental assessment include consultation with government agencies and the public; consideration and evaluation of alternatives; and, the management of potential environmental effects.Conducting an environmental assessment promotes good environmental planning before decisions are made about proceeding with a proposal. This is also referred to as an “individual” environmental assessment.
- Environmental Assessment Act
- The Environmental Assessment Act (and amendments and regulations thereto) is a provincial statute that sets out a planning and decision- making process to evaluate the potential environmental effects of a proposed undertaking. Proponents wishing to proceed with an undertaking must document their planning and decision-making process and submit the results from their environmental assessment to the Minister for approval.
- Environmental Effect
- The effect that a proposed undertaking or its alternatives has or could potentially have on the environment, either positive or negative, direct or indirect, short- or long-term.
- Environmental Review Tribunal
- An administrative body that has the authority under the Environmental Assessment Act to conduct hearings when they are required by the Minister of the Environment.The Environmental Review Tribunal is an independent and impartial tribunal established by provincial legislation. The Tribunal functions as a quasi-judicial body, subject to the rules of natural justice and the requirements of the Statutory Powers Procedure Act. The Tribunal’s primary role is adjudicating applications and appeals under various environmental and planning statutes.
- Expert Federal Authority
- A federal authority that has specialist or expert information or knowledge with respect to a project that can be provided to a responsible authority, review panel, or another jurisdiction during an environmental assessment, including expertise on the implementation of mitigation measures and any follow-up program.
- federal authority
- A federal authority is defined under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 to mean:
- A Minister of the Crown in right of Canada;
- An agency or other body of the federal government ultimately accountable to Parliament through a federal Minister of the Crown;
- Any department or departmental corporation set out in Schedule I or II of the Financial Administration Act; or,
- Any other body that is set out in Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.
- Government Review Team
- Staff from government ministries and agencies (federal; provincial, including local Conservation Authorities; and, municipal, including local Boards of Health) who contribute to the review of environmental assessment documentation (terms of reference and environmental assessment) by providing comments from their mandated areas of responsibility.
- Impact Management Measures
- Measures which can lessen potential negative environmental effects or enhance positive environmental effects. These measures could include mitigation, compensation, or community enhancement.
- Interested Persons
- Individuals or organizations with an interest in a particular undertaking. Persons with an interest in a particular undertaking often include neighbours and individuals, environmental groups or clubs, naturalist organizations, agricultural organizations, sports or recreational groups, organizations from the local community, municipal heritage committees, ratepayers associations, cottage associations, Aboriginal peoples and communities, Francophones and businesses. Interested persons are not required to demonstrate that they will personally be affected by a particular undertaking. Interested persons are often called stakeholders.
- Joint Board
- An administrative body that has the authority under the Consolidated Hearings Act to conduct joint hearings under more than one statute, including the Environmental Assessment Act, Environmental Protection Act, Planning Act, and others.
- A dispute resolution process in which a neutral third party (mediator) who is acceptable to all parties assists disputants in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement. The mediator has no authority to impose a settlement and participation in the process is voluntary.
- Minister of the Environment.
- Ministry of the Environment.
- Ministry Review
- The ministry Review is a document which is prepared by the ministry during the review and approval process for environmental assessments and class environmental assessments. The ministry Review outlines whether the proponent of a project or class environmental assessment process is in compliance with its approved terms of reference; how the proponent has met the requirements under the Environmental Assessment Act, including public consultation; and, the ministry’s analyses of the public, Aboriginal, and government agency comments received by the ministry on the environmental assessment or class environmental assessment. Once the ministry Review is published and a notice of completion is issued, all members of the public, Aboriginal communities, and agencies have a final opportunity to submit their comments to the ministry on the ministry Review, the environmental assessment documentation or the proposed undertaking. Requests to the Minister to consider sending the application for a hearing on significant outstanding environmental issues can also be submitted at this time.
- Ministry Technical Reviewers
- Ministry of the Environment staff, other than the Project Officer, who contribute to the review of the draft and final environmental assessment. They form part of the Government Review Team for the proposal.
- Places of Public Record
- Official locations where interested persons may review the environmental assessment.
- Project Officer
- The assigned staff person from the Environmental Approvals Branch who manages and coordinates the review of the components of an Environmental Assessment Act application (that is, a terms of reference or an environmental assessment) for approval. The Project Officer also provides guidance on the environmental assessment process to proponents, government agencies and other interested persons.
- A person, agency, group or organization that carries out or proposes to carry out an undertaking or is the owner or person having charge, management or control of an undertaking.
- Public Record File
- A public record file will be maintained by the Environmental Approvals Branch for every undertaking for which there is an application for approval under Part II and Part II.1 as well as orders under section 16 and the preparation of Declaration Orders under section 3.2 and Harmonization Orders under section 3.1 of the Environmental Assessment Act in accordance with the requirement to maintain a record under section 30 of that act. In addition, the Environmental Approvals Branch will maintain a public record file for elevation requests under the streamlined environmental assessment process for electricity projects and waste management projects, objections for transit projects and requests for an individual environmental assessment pursuant to Declaration Orders. The purpose of the public record file is to promote transparency and consultation. Public record files are only kept for class environmental assessment undertakings where a Part II Order has been requested.
- Responsible Authority
- In accordance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 and in relation to a designated project, a federal authority that is required to ensure that a federal environmental assessment of a designated project is conducted.
- Terms of Reference
- The approved terms of reference sets out the framework for the planning and decision-making process to be followed by the proponent during the preparation of an environmental assessment. In other words, it is the proponent’s work plan for what is going to be studied. The environmental assessment must be prepared in accordance with the approved terms of reference.
- An enterprise, activity or a proposal, plan, or program that a proponent initiates or proposes to initiate.
* An asterisk (*) beside a defined term indicates that the term is defines in the Environmental Assessment Act.