As of May 1, 2018, there is a new process for submitting streamlined environmental assessment notices and updates. If you are planning a Class environmental assessment project or an electricity or waste management streamlined environmental assessment project, see Streamlined Environmental Assessment for more information. Please note that this is in addition to the existing notification requirements in each class environmental assessment and streamlined process.

About environmental assessments

The Environmental Assessment Act sets out a planning and decision-making process so that potential environmental effects are considered before a project begins.

The act applies to:

  • provincial ministries and agencies
  • municipalities such as towns, cities, and counties
  • public bodies such as conservation authorities and Metrolinx

Examples of projects include:

  • public roads and highways
  • transit projects
  • waste management projects
  • water and wastewater works
  • resource management
  • flood protection projects

List of environmental assessment projects

Exceptions

The environmental assessment process generally does not apply to the private sector. Sometimes private firms are required by a regulation or may voluntarily go through an environmental assessment process. The Minister can use a declaration order to either exempt a project or set out requirements that the proponent must meet.

Learn more: declaration orders
Learn more: designating regulations and voluntary agreements

Public consultation

Public consultation is mandatory.

The public, Indigenous communities and government agencies are encouraged to get involved in the environmental assessment process.

The law makes consultation with Indigenous communities an important consideration in environmental assessment and decision-making.

Learn more: Consulting in the environmental assessment process
Learn more: Duty to consult with Indigenous peoples
Learn more: Consulting Indigenous communities

These projects are currently open for public comment:

Source law

The full set of provincial rules related to the environmental assessment process is set out in:

Types of assessments

There are 2 types of assessments:

  • individual environmental assessments
  • streamlined environmental assessments

Individual Environmental Assessments

Individual environmental assessments are prepared for large-scale, complex projects with the potential for significant environmental effects. They require Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks approval.

Step 1: develop and submit a Terms of Reference

Proponent must:

  • submit a Notice of Commencement to the Director, Environmental Assessment Branch
  • submit a Terms of Reference summary form
  • consult with the public, Indigenous communities and government agencies
  • document the consultation process and submit to the ministry with your Terms of Reference
  • outline your plan for preparing and evaluating your environmental assessment
  • prepare and submit the Terms of Reference document including:
    • the name and address of the proponent
    • how the environmental assessment will be prepared
    • purpose of the study or undertaking
    • description of and rationale for the undertaking and for alternatives
    • description of the existing environment and potential effects of the undertaking
    • assessment and evaluation
    • commitments and monitoring
    • consultation plan for the environmental assessment
    • flexibility to accommodate new circumstances
    • other approvals required

Ministry:

  • consults with the public, Indigenous communities and government agencies
  • coordinates a technical review of the Terms of Reference document
  • makes a recommendation to the Minister who decides whether or not to approve the Terms of Reference within 12 weeks from the date of submission to the ministry

The proponent has an opportunity to take a "time out" to amend the Terms of Reference.

The Minister can refer a matter to mediation before making a decision or the proponent can begin the mediation process. The Minister can't send a Terms of Reference to a hearing.

Learn more: Code of practice using mediation
Learn more: Hearings

Step 2: prepare an environmental assessment

Proponent must:

  • submit a Notice of Commencement to the Director, Environmental Assessment Branch
  • prepare the environmental assessment document once the Terms of Reference is approved
  • the environmental assessment document includes:
    • record of consultation
    • a monitoring framework that will be carried out if the undertaking is approved
    • a list of commitments
    • actions to prevent, reduce and manage environmental effects
    • environmental effects that may be caused
    • a review and evaluation of alternatives considered
    • results of the planning and decision-making process
    • the purpose of the project and a description of the undertaking
  • consult the public, Indigenous communities and government agencies

There are no limits on how much time a proponent can take to prepare the environmental assessment document.

Step 3: submit an environmental assessment

Proponent must:

Step 4: public and government review

The ministry coordinates public and government review of the document submitted.

The ministry consults with:

  • government experts
  • Indigenous communities
  • the public
  • any other interested party

The public has 7 weeks to comment.

Any time during the environmental assessment process, the proponent or any other interested persons can ask for mediation.

Step 5: Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks review

This includes:

  • a review of all public, Indigenous community and government agency comments
  • the proponent’s response to the comments
  • a discussion on whether the proponent is in compliance with your approved terms of reference
  • how the proponent has met the requirements of the Environmental Assessment Act

The ministry has 5 weeks to write and publish the Ministry Review.

Step 6: public consultation on the Ministry Review

The public, government agencies, Indigenous communities or any other interested party has 5 weeks to provide comments to the ministry.

During this time, anyone, including the proponent can:

Step 7: Minister’s decision

The environmental assessment must be approved by the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks and Cabinet before the project can proceed.

Once public comment is finished on the Ministry Review, the Minister has 13 weeks to make a decision.

The Minister may:

  • refer it to mediation
  • refer it to the Environmental Review Tribunal for a hearing
  • make a decision to approve, approve with conditions, or refuse

Step 8: implement the project and monitor compliance

After the project has been approved, the proponent will need to gather other approvals as needed.

These could include requirements found in the:

When the proponent has received all approvals, construction can begin. The proponent must report on how they have complied with commitments in the environmental assessment and the conditions of the approval.

Legislated timelines

The government has legislative deadlines to ensure the reviews of a Terms of Reference and an environmental assessment are completed within a reasonable amount of time.

At a minimum, it takes:

  • 12 weeks to review and make a decision on a Terms of Reference
  • 30 weeks to review and make a decision on an environmental assessment

The review will take longer if the proponent needs time to change a report.

Learn more: EA Deadlines regulation

Compliance and monitoring

Proponents must comply with the commitments made in the environmental assessment and with the conditions of approval.

There are 2 types of monitoring:

  • compliance monitoring
  • effects monitoring

Compliance monitoring

Compliance monitoring looks at whether a project has been implemented:

  • according to commitments made in the environmental assessment
  • according the environmental assessment monitoring framework for all phases of construction and decommission
  • conditions of approval

Proponents must provide annual compliance monitoring reports to the ministry.

Effects monitoring

Effects monitoring is used after environmental assessment project approval to:

  • verify the expected environmental effects
  • determine if additional impact management measures are required

If needed, the ministry may require additional effects monitoring such as monitoring air quality or emissions.

Streamlined Environmental Assessments

Streamlined environmental assessments can be used for routine projects that have predictable and manageable environmental effects. Proponents of these types of projects follow a self-assessment and decision-making process. Approval is not directly granted for each project.

Streamlined self-assessment processes include:

  • Class Environmental Assessments
  • Electricity Projects Regulation
  • Waste Management Projects Regulation
  • Transit Projects Regulation

Projects planned following a streamlined process are:

  • pre-approved or exempt (Minister’s approval is not required)
  • conditional upon being planned according to the streamlined process
  • not required to conduct a higher level of assessment such as an individual environmental assessment

Proponent must:

  • follow the streamlined process
  • consult with public, Indigenous communities and government agencies
  • assess potential environmental effects
  • prepare documentation specified in the streamlined process
  • send their notices and project information form to the region where the project is located

Anyone with significant environmental concerns about a project that can't be resolved through discussions with the proponent or through mediation may request a higher level of EA study.

Submit notices for streamlined environmental assessments

As of May 1, 2018, proponents must follow the planning process set out in the approved class environmental assessments or streamlined environmental assessment processes, and send their notices and completed project information form to the region where the project is located. If your project is located in more than one ministry region, you need to submit your notices to all appropriate regions. This is in addition to the existing notification requirements in each class environmental assessments and streamlined environmental assessment process.

To submit your notice you need to do the following:

  1. download and complete the project information form
  2. the subject line of your email must include the project location, type of streamlined environmental assessment and project name, for example:
    • York Region, MEA Class EA, Elgin Mills Rd East (Bayview to Woodbine)
    • Durham Region, Electricity Screening Process, New Cogeneration Station
    • City of Ottawa, Waste Management Screening Process, Landfill Expansion Project
  3. attach a copy of your project notice in PDF format and your completed project information form in Excel format to the email
  4. send your email to the appropriate ministry regional office:

Class Environmental Assessment

A class environmental assessment document sets out a streamlined self-assessment process. This applies to routine projects that have predictable and manageable environmental effects.

Proponent must:

  • prepare the class environment assessment after having an approved Terms of Reference
  • submit the document to the ministry for review and a decision

The class EA document outlines the planning processes for each class of project, including:

  • public, government agency and Indigenous community consultation
  • assessing potential environmental effects
  • assessing alternatives
  • required documents

Once the document is approved by the Minister and Cabinet, the proponent may follow the streamlined environmental assessment process to plan the listed activities/projects as outlined in the approved class environmental assessment document.

Ontario currently has 11 class environmental assessments that cover routine activities including:

  • municipal road, sewage and water infrastructure
  • highway construction and maintenance
  • conservation authority works
  • transit projects
  • other public sector activities such as forestry, resource management, and transmission lines

Proponents must follow the planning process set out in the approved class document.

Part II Orders

Sometimes there are significant outstanding environmental concerns with a project that are not resolved through the Class Environmental Assessment process.

Anyone may request the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parksto issue a Part II Order to require a project proponent to prepare an individual EA. As of July 1, 2018, you must use a Part II Order Request Form to make your request. The Minister may also issue a Part II Order.

Learn more: How to Make a Part II Order Request

Environmental Assessment processes by regulation

Ontario currently has 3 streamlined processes by regulation for:

  • electricity projects
  • waste management projects
  • transit projects

All proponents must submit a Statement of Completion form to the Director, Environmental Assessment Branch.

Proponents of electricity projects and waste management projects must follow the environmental screening process outlined in the regulations and accompanying guide.

Proponents of transit projects must follow the transit project assessment process outlined in the regulation and accompanying guide. The proponent has 6 months to complete the process.

Form: Statement of Completion—Electricity Projects
Form: Statement of Completion—Waste Management Projects
Form: Statement of Completion—Transit Projects
Form: Statement of Completion—Transit Projects, additional proponent information

Guide: Electricity Projects
Guide: Waste Management Projects
Guide: Transit Projects

Elevation requests

Anyone can request that a proponent for an electricity or waste project prepare an individual environmental assessment. This is called an elevation request.

An elevation request must be:

  • submitted to the Director of, Environmental Assessment Branch
  • a copy sent to the proponent
  • within the minimum 30-day review period after the Notice of Completion of an Environmental Screening Report has been issued

If discussions continue for an agreed-upon time period beyond the minimum period, the concerned person can submit an elevation request to the Director within a further 7 calendar days at the end of the agreed-upon time period.

Requests submitted after the review period will not normally be considered.

You must include:

  • name of the project and proponent
  • that an elevation request is specifically being made under Part II of the Environmental Assessment Act
  • whether the request is that the project be elevated to a screening of the full project (for Addendum projects) or an individual environmental assessment (for projects that completed a screening)
  • basis of the request
  • nature of the specific environmental concerns that remain unresolved
  • benefits of requiring the proponent to undertake a full screening or an individual environmental assessment
  • information about any efforts to discuss/resolve these concerns/environmental effects with the proponent
  • details of any correspondence between the person and the proponent
  • any other matters considered relevant by the requesting person

You must send the written elevation request to the Director, Environmental Assessment Branch and send a copy to the proponent.

Elevation requests are considered comments to a public process and information contained in a request will be shared with the proponent and may be circulated to other stakeholders.

Ministry:

  • reviews the request
  • consults with appropriate persons
  • makes a recommendation to the Director

Director’s decision can:

  • refer the matter to mediation before making a decision
  • require further studies
  • deny the request and inform the proponent and requester
  • deny the request but impose conditions
  • require the proponent to prepare and individual environmental assessment

For electricity projects, the requester can ask the Minister to review the Director’s decision.

Objections

Once the proponent has completed the environmental project report for a transit project, anyone can submit an objection to the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks if they feel there are negative impacts on a matter of provincial importance such as:

  • a provincially significant wetland
  • archaeological site
  • an Indigenous right

Submit a written objection to the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks and Director, Environmental Assessment Branch with:

  • name, mailing address, organization or affiliation, daytime phone number, and e-mail address
  • name and address of the proponent (individual or organization), proponent contact name and phone number, proponent’s agent/representative and phone number
  • brief description of the proponent’s proposed undertaking, including the location
  • basis for why further study is required, including any identification of negative impacts that relate to a matter of provincial importance or on a constitutionally protected Indigenous or treaty right that was not identified or considered in the proponent’s Environmental Project Report
  • summary of how the person(s) objecting to the transit project has participated and been involved in the proponent’s consultation process (e.g. meetings, phone calls, notifications)

You have 30 days from the time a proponent gives Notice of Completion to:

  • review what a proponent has done
  • submit objections

To ensure enough time to consider objections, you should also provide a copy of your objection to the Director and the proponent. You may withdraw the objection by providing the Minister written notice.

After the 30-day review period has ended, the Minister has 35 days to make a decision.

A proponent may not proceed with the transit project before the end of the 35-day period.

Ministry staff:

  • reviews the request
  • consults with appropriate persons
  • makes a recommendation to the Minister

Minister’s decision

  • allows a project to proceed, with or without conditions
  • requires further study related to impacts on a matter or provincial importance

Coordinating federal and provincial environmental assessment

Some projects may need to follow both provincial and federal EA processes. To reduce any potential for duplication, Ontario signed a cooperative agreement with the federal government.

A new highway is a good example of a coordinated project.

Guide: Federal/Provincial Environmental Assessment Coordination
Learn more: Agreement Environmental Assessment Cooperation

Mailing address

Minister
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
777 Bay Street, 5th Floor
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 2J3
minister.mecp@ontario.ca

Director, Environmental Assessment Branch
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
135 St. Clair Avenue West, 1st Floor
Toronto, Ontario
M4V 1P5
enviropermissions@ontario.ca