Changes planned to EA process

The Ontario government announced April 25 that it plans to “modernize” Ontario’s environmental assessment process “to better serve Ontarians now and into the future by focusing on projects that pose actual, real risks to our environment and communities, streamlining approval timelines and eliminating duplication.” The original legislation for environmental assessment is more than 40 years old.

    The government has released a discussion paper that outlines the process changes it’s calling for, including several immediate, short-term fixes.

    “We are proposing sensible, pragmatic solutions to modernize Ontario’s environmental assessment process,” said Rod Phillips, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. “Low-risk projects that have positive impacts in our communities shouldn’t be held up by lengthy approvals. This review will ensure that the public’s voice is heard, and the proper environmental protections are in place, particularly that climate change and increasing extreme weather is considered in project planning.”

    The province is proposing to exempt low-risk projects from having to undergo an environmental assessment, as other provinces have done to focus on projects of higher risk. Activities defined as low-risk include snow plowing and de-icing operations, constructing roadside parks and adding bike lanes. Ministry resources would be freed up to focus on higher-risk activities.

          Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Act was created in 1975 and has remained largely unchanged, with amendments in 1996.

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