Municipal Class Environmental Assessment

Part A - Class EA Planning Process



Purpose of the EA Act

The purpose of the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act, R.S.O. 1990, Chapter E.18, as amended, (herein referred to as the EA Act), is to provide for:

... the betterment of the people of the whole or any part of Ontario by providing for the protection, conservation and wise management in Ontario of the environment. (Part I-Section 2).

Environment includes the natural, social, cultural, built and economic environments

"Environment" is applied in a broad sense and includes the natural, social, cultural, built and economic environments. The formal definition of the environment is included in the glossary of this document.

Two types of processes:

  • Individual EA
  • Class EA

In applying the requirements of the EA Act to undertakings, the EA Act identifies two types of environmental assessment planning and approval processes:

Individual Environmental Assessments (Part II of the EA Act) - those projects for which a Terms of Reference and an individual environmental assessment are carried out and submitted to the Minister of the Environment for review and approval, or

Class Environmental Assessments (Part II.1 of the EA Act) - those projects which are approved subject to compliance with an approved class environmental assessment process with respect to a class of undertakings. Providing the approved process is followed, a proponent has complied with Section 13 (3)(a) of the EA Act.

This feature of the amended EA Act is of note. Where previously Class EAs were enabled through Regulation 334, they are now embodied within the amended EA Act.

Key principles of successful environmental assessment planning:

  • consultation
  • reasonable range of alternatives
  • consideration of effects on all aspects of environment
  • systematic evaluation
  • clear documentation
  • traceable decision-making

Consultation with affected parties early in and throughout the process, such that the planning process is a cooperative venture. The proponent should seek to involve potentially affected parties as early as possible, so that their concerns can be identified and addressed before irreversible decisions are made. Early consultation allows for improved understanding of environmental concerns before the undertaking is selected and focuses the planning on matters of concern. Potentially affected parties include technical agencies, the public, property owners, interest groups and other municipalities.

Consideration of a reasonable range of alternatives, both the functionally different "alternatives to" and the "alternative methods" of implementing the solution. The "Do nothing" alternative, which provides a benchmark for the evaluation of alternatives, must be considered.

Identification and consideration of the effects of each alternative on all aspects of the environment, i.e., the impact on the natural, social cultural, technical and economic/financial environment. The level of detail will vary depending primarily on the significance of the effect and the stage of the study.

Systematic evaluation of alternatives in terms of their advantages and disadvantages, to determine their net environmental effects. The planning process must include distinct points where alternatives are evaluated and the net environmental effects are identified. The decision-making process should be phased, narrowing progressively to a preferred alternative. The process must recognize the dynamic nature of environmental decision-making, must be sensitive to changing conditions and new information, and must be flexible enough to deal with them.

Provision of clear and complete documentation of the planning process followed, to allow "traceability" of decision-making with respect to the project. Documentation should set out the approach, and the way in which the principles of environmental assessment planning were followed in the planning process.

A.1.1.1 Definition of an Approved Class EA for a Class of Undertakings
An approved Class EA document describes the process that a proponent must follow for a class or group of undertakings in order to meet the requirements of the EA Act, and is sometimes referred to as a “parent” Class EA. It is a method of obtaining an approval under the EA Act and provides an alternative to carrying out individual environmental assessments for each separate undertaking or project within the class. Sub-section 14(2) of the EA Act identifies the requirements for inclusion in a “parent” Class EA. Once the “parent” Class EA is approved under the EA Act, all projects of the type included in the class have pre-approval under the EA Act, provided they are carried out in accordance with the commitments made in the “parent” Class EA and any additional requirements specified in the EA Act approval.