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On April 25, 2019, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks released a consultation paper inviting comments on proposed reforms to the environmental assessment process under the Environmental Assessment Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.18.

The discussion paper provides a high-level summary of the current environmental assessment process (“EAs”) and proposes a series of changes.

The paper reviews the distinction between Individual EAs, which are required for large-scale projects with potentially significant environmental effects, and Streamlined / Class EAs, which are required for routine projects with predictable and manageable environmental effects. It further explains that the level of assessment required for a project is intended to correspond to its level of environmental risk.

The first proposal is to immediately exempt what the paper calls “very low risk” projects, like municipal snowplowing and de-icing projects, from EAs. There is also a proposal to re-calibrate the risk-assessment step to reclassify some currently medium-risk activities in to the low-risk category. The example given is the disposition of lands by the province.

The paper also seeks feedback on: (1) moving to a project list approach to triggering the EA requirement; (2) efforts to further coordinate provincial and federal EAs; (3) ideas to better coordinate EAs with other provincial planning processes; and (4) establishing an online process for EA consultation.

Public comments are being received until May 25, 2019.

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