Ontario Plans to Revoke Municipal Class EA and Replace It With Municipal Project Assessment Process Regulation

Ontario is moving forward with changes to the current environmental assessment (“EA”) process for municipal infrastructure projects.

As part of this effort, Ontario is proposing to revoke the Municipal Class EA (“MCEA”) and Private Sector Developers Regulation ( O. Reg. 345/93) and make a streamlined EA regulation that focuses on certain higher-risk water, shoreline and sewage projects.

The new regulation would take a project-list approach by describing the municipal infrastructure types that would be required to be subject to the EA process. Only projects listed in the regulation would have Environmental Assessment Act (“EAA”) requirements. It is proposed that some projects deemed to be low risk, which are currently subject to the MCEA, would no longer be subject to it. This would include all projects currently subject to Schedule B of the MCEA, all municipal roads or new parking lots, and all private sector infrastructure projects for residents of a municipality, regardless of size, including a new sewage treatment plant of any size.

The new regulation would also establish a Project Assessment Process which sets out timelines for each step in the EA. The Project Assessment Process would include requirements for consultation, consideration of alternative designs, impact assessment studies, documentation and notification.

The public commenting period regarding the proposed Municipal Project Assessment Process Regulation is open until March 17, 2024. See the Environmental Registry of Ontario posting for details of the proposal and the link to provide comments.

In addition, on February 22, 2024, the province:

  • Took significant steps to move Ontario’s EA regime to a project list approach, by:
    • Enacting three new regulations under the EAA;
    • Making complementary amendments to seven class EAs; and
    • Making complementary updates to three guides.

The province proclaimed section 17.25 of the EAA, which provides for the expiry of any approvals under the EAA that do not have an expiry date and have not substantially commenced within 10 years of the initial approval (or an extended period if the Minister grants an extension).

This new section allows the Minister to extend the period (by notice) within which the project is to be substantially commenced, in addition to making the extension subject to conditions. 

Aird & Berlis will provide a more in-depth summary of these changes to Ontario’s environmental assessment regime in an upcoming article.

The Municipal & Land Use Planning Group at Aird & Berlis will continue to monitor Bill 162 as it makes its way through the legislative process and will keep you informed of any important changes. If you have questions or require assistance, please contact a member of the group.