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More About Environmental Assessments

About the Municipal Class EA Process

Municipalities in Ontario follow the Municipal Class Environmental Assessment process under the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act to complete an Environmental Assessment (EA) for most transportation, water and wastewater projects. The Class EA is a phased planning approach that includes 5 main study phases and public consultation. The complexity and extent of the environmental impact of a specific project determines the number of phases to be completed to comply with the Class EA process. 

The 5 phases are as follows:

  • Phase 1 - Problem or Opportunity:  The completion of this phase requires the proponent to document the factors that lead to the conclusion that an improvement or change is warranted.
  • Phase 2 - Alternative Solutions:  In this phase, alternative solutions to the problem or opportunity are identified and evaluated, taking into account the existing environment. A recommended preferred solution can be developed with input from the public and review agencies. The nature of the solution will determine if the proponent is required to complete additional phases of the Class EA process.
  • Phase 3 - Alternative Design Concepts for Preferred Solution:  If required, this phase will examine alternative methods of implementing the preferred solution, again considering environmental impacts and public and review agency input.
  • Phase 4 - Environmental Study Report:  This phase includes the preparation of an Environmental Study Report that documents the rationale and planning and consultative process undertaken for the project and the publication of the report for public review.
  • Phase 5 - Implementation:  This is the implementation phase of the Class EA process. This phase allows for design and construction of the items as planned in earlier phases, and monitoring for compliance with those planning principles.

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Class EA projects fall into 1 of the 3 following Schedules depending on the potential environmental impact of the project:

  • Schedule A projects generally include normal or emergency operational and maintenance activities. Since the environmental effects of these activities are usually minimal, the projects are pre-approved and can proceed immediately to implementation.
  • Schedule B projects generally include improvements and minor expansions to existing facilities. Since there is potential for some adverse environmental impacts, the proponent must proceed through a screening process including consultation with those who may be affected.
  • Schedule C projects generally include the construction of new facilities and major expansions to existing facilities. These projects proceed through the complete environmental assessment planning process outlined in the Class EA before proceeding with construction.

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Public Review Opportunities

Public Information Centres

Public consultation takes place through Public Information Centres where comments and concerns are identified and discussed. These meetings are advertised in local newspapers. Stakeholder consultation takes place through direct contact with local landowners where there is potential for impact. Stakeholder meetings provide a more direct opportunity to discuss comments and concerns.  Notification of these meetings is sent directly to project stakeholders.

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Part II Orders

30-day public and agency review is advertised in local newspapers as part of the Notice of Study Completion. Any outstanding comments and concerns must be provided to the proponent during this time. If concerns cannot be resolved through discussion, a "Part II Order" request may be sent to the Minister of the Environment. This means that the Minister is requested to review the process to decide whether or not an Individual EA is required. This may also be referred to as complying with Part II of the Ontario EA Act. An Individual EA is the most extensive assessment process available in Ontario and is sent to the Minister of the Environment for review and approval. 

The Municipal Class Environmental Assessment (June 2000) sets out the process explained above. It was developed by the Municipal Engineers Association and approved by the Minister of the Environment under the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act.

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