Drummond Report recommends environmental and natural resources improvements
On February 15, 2012, the Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services released its report titled Public Services for Ontarians: A Path to Sustainability and Excellence (Report). Chapter 13 of the Report recommends the changes that the Commission believes are essential to improve the way the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) and the Ministry of Natural Resources operate. Overall, the Report indicates that significant changes are necessary to Ontario’s environmental and natural resource programs due to the combination of the fiscal restraint recommended in the Report and the projected rise in demand for the continued oversight of environmental approvals, compliance and resource stewardship. The specific recommendations in Chapter 13 include the following:
- Moving toward full cost recovery and user-pay models for environmental programs and services;
- Rationalizing roles and responsibilities for environmental protections that are currently shared across levels of government;
- Adopting a risk-based approach for environmental approvals that focuses on improving outcomes and prevention (the Report notes the recent improvements in environmental approvals in Ontario but says that more can and must be done);
- Reviewing opportunities to further streamline the environmental assessment process, such as coordinating further with the Canadian government’s process or integrating it with certain approvals;
- Placing greater emphasis on prevention and the polluter-pay principle for contaminated sites using appropriate financial tools (such as financial assurance);
- Evaluating the merits of restructuring the current governance structure of the Ontario Clean Water Agency as a for-profit, wholly owned government entity;
- Rationalizing and consolidating the entities and agencies involved in land-use planning and resources management; and
- Ensuring that the Ontario’s government’s approach to the “Ring of Fire” region in Northern Ontario (an area with potentially large deposits of valuable minerals) maximizes opportunities for Aboriginal people and all Ontarians.
Ministry proposes additional activities for registration
On January 11, 2012, Ontario’s MOE proposed additional activities and sectors to be evaluated for potential inclusion on the Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR). The EASR is a public, web-based system on which parties engaging in selected activities are required to register the activity with the MOE and meet eligibility and operating requirements set out in regulations rather than seeking an approval through the normal application submission and review process. The following activities and sectors are proposed additions to the EASR: waste collection and transportation; ready-mix concrete manufacturing; lithographic, screen and digital printing; and concrete product manufacturing.
Comments on the proposal will be accepted until February 25, 2012. For further information, please see the Environmental Registry.
Ministry proposes environmental compliance approvals application guide
On January 11, 2012, the MOE proposed a draft guide (Guide) to assist applicants who are applying for environmental compliance approvals (ECAs). The Guide sets out the requirements for using the new ECA application form, and allows applicants to apply for an ECA for several activities and projects in various media under a single application. Moreover, the Guide consolidates into a single document information regarding the supporting documentary and technical requirements for an ECA. This information was previously found in guides relating to applications for certificates of approval under the Environmental Protection Act and the Ontario Water Resources Act.
Comments regarding the Guide will be accepted until April 10, 2012. For further information, please see the Environmental Registry and Guide to Applying for an Environmental Compliance Approval.
Birds and bird habitat guidelines amended
The MOE recently decided to proceed with certain changes to Birds and Bird Habitats: Guidelines for Wind Power Projects (2010) (Guidelines). The main amendments incorporated into the Guidelines are as follows:
- The threshold for bird mortality has been lowered to 14 birds/ turbine/ year (from 18 birds). As a result, a mortality rate that exceeds the mortality threshold at a facility will trigger additional monitoring and mitigation obligations;
- Additional information has been provided on important bird areas, including their importance and their link to significant wildlife habitats;
- Monitoring methods for evaluating wildlife habitats and post-construction mortality monitoring have been revised to reflect public/industry comments and scientific recommendations;
- Data submission procedures related to the Wind Energy Bird and Bat Monitoring Database have been detailed; and
- Ecological effectiveness monitoring plan information requirements have been updated to reflect the January 2011 amendments to O. Reg. 359/09.
For further information, please see the amendments to the Guidelines.
Amendments to the endangered species regulations proposed
The MOE has proposed amendments to Ontario Regulation 242/08 under the Endangered Species Act, 2007 to prescribe certain protected habitat for these seven species at risk: the Bent Spike-rush, the Common Five-lined Skink, the Eastern Foxsnake (Carolinian Population), the Eastern Foxsnake (Georgian Bay Population), the Gray Ratsnake (Carolinian Population), the Gray Ratsnake (Frontenac Axis Population) and the Rapids Clubtail.
For further information, please see the amendments to Ontario Regulation 242/08.
Emergency regulations amended
Amendments to the Environmental Emergency Regulations (EE Regulations) recently came into force. The amendments make specified substances or classes of substances that are flammable or toxic (that were not previously addressed) subject to the EE Regulations. In addition, the amendments clarify some existing provisions and provide certain exceptions from the requirements of the EE Regulations. In particular, the amendments include the following:
- the addition of 33 substances and classes of substances to Schedule 1 of the EE Regulations;
- exceptions to the requirement to calculate quantities of certain regulated solids, anhydrous ammonia and ammonia solution, and propane;
- requirements for environmental emergency plans to be prepared for certain closed or decommissioned facilities;
- changes in the requirements to notify members of the public in the event of an environmental emergency;
- modifications to Schedule 1 of the EE Regulations to include substances that are aquatically toxic, carcinogenic, persistent or bio-accumulative; and
- revision to the reporting requirements of the EE Regulations.
For further information, please see the Canada Gazette website.
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