The latest draft Approvals Reform regulations are another
small step in the right direction. Clarifying and simplifying
the requirements for routine, low impact activities, and reducing
regulatory delay, is increasingly important if Ontario is to
successfully compete for investment money and jobs. Using the
Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR) process (a type
of permit by rule) for routine activities should also free up much
needed resources for the quicker processing of Environmental
Compliance Approvals for more complex and innovative activities,
which continue to suffer damaging delays.
Small Ground-Mounted Solar projects; Lithographic, Screen and
Digital Printing; and Non-Hazardous Waste Transportation Systems
are appropriate, if narrow, sectors for an EASR approach. In our
experience, the Certificates of Approval that have been granted for
these activities have generally been routine and repetitious. Where
differences have occurred between one approval and another, these
differences have often created challenges to a level playing field
between competitors, rather than providing a safe and equitable
level of environmental protection to the public. Thus, moving from
individualized approvals to an EASR system will both avoid delay
and provide a more level playing field for proponents and their
customers. Uniform approval conditions should also be easier to
In our experience, the proposed EASR standards are more
stringent than the majority of existing approvals for non-hazardous
waste hauling and printing. Thus, moving from individualized
approvals to an EASR system will often increase the environmental
standards required of proponents. If enforced, these higher EASR
requirements should therefore increase the level of environmental
protection provided to the public. Proponents are likely willing to
pay the increased costs to get quick, automatic registration, given
the long and unpredictable delays of the current process.
In future, the EASR process should also make it much easier for
the MOE to increase regulatory standards across each sector as a
whole, rather than waiting for individual proponents to seek
amendments so that up to date conditions may be added to their
The biggest drawback with the draft EASR regulations is how
narrow they are. For example, the new Waste Hauler regulation will apply
to only a fraction of existing waste haulers. Ineligible will
be anyone who handles any hazardous waste, or the most innocuous of
liquid industrial wastes. Also ineligible will be waste
processing, such as on-truck processing of PCB waste; or waste
storage, such as storage of hauled sewage, or waste disposal, such
as land application of organics.
The tighter the EASR regulations are focussed, the fewer
operations they will apply to, and the less benefit they will
provide. Presumably the MOE has decided to be cautious in the first
years of a new regulatory approach. It's probably better to be
successful, in a slow, non-controversial way, than to go quickly
and risk a public failure.
Comments are due by September 8.
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On September 26, 2016, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) posted a draft regulation that seeks to streamline the approvals process for comment on the Environmental Registry.
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