Building a better framework for Environmental Approvals in Ontario

The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change is working to create a modern regulatory system for environmental approvals.

The ministry’s Modernization of Approvals Branch (MAB) is leading the implementation of a modernized approach to environmental approvals to create faster, smarter, streamlined government-to-business services, while maintaining high standards of environmental protection.  MAB works with stakeholders to propose, evaluate, communicate and support modernization activities within the context of a risk-based, client centred system.

First steps

In 2011 the ministry implemented a new, two-pronged risk-based online environmental registration system. The first stream, applications for routine activities that present lower risks to the environment became eligible to be submitted online through the Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR). The second stream was for unique and more complex activities requiring an Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA).

Since 2011, the following sectors have qualified for EASRs, resulting in time and cost savings for clients:

  • Automotive refinishing
  • Commercial printing facilities
  • Heating
  • Non-hazardous waste transportation systems
  • Small ground-mounted solar facilities
  • Standby power systems.

Moving forward

In 2015, the ministry developed an electronic Environmental Compliance Approval System (eECAS). Clients can now apply, pay for, and track their ECA applications from their computer.

To support the release of eECAS, the ministry is conducting a controlled launch. During the launch, a limited number of online applications will be received and processed to better train ministry staff and make adjustments to improve the client experience.

To support external clients, tutorials will be made available online on ontario.ca. Other sources of guidance to support clients available online include an updated ECA Guide, and sample ECA applications that provide an understanding of the documentation required for ministry decision-making. Through learning by example, clients receive clarity, consistency and support for thorough and complete submissions.

The ministry is well on the road to becoming a modern regulator. The positive benefits include improved effectiveness, flexibility, transparency and cost efficiency. As of mid-May 2016, there were 4,504 EASR registrations, generating approximately $35 million in savings for businesses that have registered since 2011.

Building an approvals system for the future

Given the ongoing success of the EASR and the potential benefits to Ontario’s regulated sector, additional EASR candidates are being considered by the ministry. The branch is currently working on a draft regulation for End of Life Vehicles processing sites registering on the EASR.

Ontario is home to thousands of manufacturing businesses. After California and Texas, Ontario has the most manufacturing employees of any jurisdiction in Canada or the United States. A new ’general manufacturing’ EASR that targets low-risk, well understood manufacturing sectors would streamline the approvals process for  many manufacturing sectors in the province, providing significant benefits to this sector while continuing to  ensure these businesses operate without compromising Ontario’s environmental health.

Moving forward, MAB is also looking at other potential sectors or activities for EASR consideration including:

  • Agribusiness
  • Electricity Distribution Stations
  • Non-emergency Tier 4 generators

For more information on MAB or modernization of approvals, contact Walter Yee, Manager, Program Implementation at 416-325-7561 or at Walter.Yee@ontario.ca.

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