April 12, 2004

Ontario waste strategy will close door on Adams Mine site, improve EA process, draft options for reaching 60% target

New legislation closing the door permanently on disposal of waste at the Adams Mine site is one of the highlights of a new waste diversion strategy unveiled last week by the Ontario government. The strategy, aimed at achieving the provincial goal of diverting 60% of Ontario's waste from disposal by 2008, also includes a commitment to release a discussion paper this spring to consult on options for achieving this goal, and improvements to the environmental assessment process specifically oriented to supporting Ontario's waste management objectives.

Bill 49, the Adams Mine Lake Act, 2004, was introduced for first reading on April 5 by Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky. In addition to preventing the use of the Adams Mine site as a landfill, the legislation would amend the Environmental Protection Act to prevent the use of lakes as landfill sites.

For the purposes of the legislation, a lake would include a body of surface water which results from human activities, and which directly influences or is directly influenced by groundwater, including land that is covered by water on the date the legislation comes into effect. The amendment would not apply to a body of water less than one hectare in area.

The Act would void any approvals and permits related to the Adams Mine project issued by the Ministry of Environment (MOE) prior to the date the Act comes into effect. On that date as well, the Act would also nullify any applications for permits under consideration by the MOE.

Also cancelled under the legislation would be: any agreement between the Ministry of Natural Resources and the owner of the Adams Mine relating to the purchase and sale of the adjacent Crown land; and any related legal action against the Crown that may exist on the date the Act comes into effect. Finally, the Act would prevent any further legal action being taken against the Crown as a result of the legislation.

In requiring the province to compensate the owner of the Adams Mine for expenses incurred, the Act makes it clear that the Adams Mine property is not being expropriated. Expenses would be defined as those incurred for the purpose of developing the Adams Mine landfill, specifically: the acquisition of the Adams Mine site; surveys, studies and testing; engineering and design services; legal services; marketing and promotion; property taxes; the cost of seeking government approvals; and the cost of seeking acquisition of Crown land.

The fair market value of the site on the date the legislation comes into effect would be deducted from the amount of expenses. Compensation would not be paid for any future profits the owner would have received as a result of operating a landfill at the Adams Mine site.

The proposed legislation sets out a mechanism for the owner to obtain compensation: this provision would require the owner to provide documentation supporting claims for compensation within 120 days after the Act comes into effect. Claims on which the government and the owner agree would be paid. For any claims that are in dispute, the owner or the Crown will be able to apply to the courts for a determination of the amount of compensation.

The strategy's second main feature is the government's pledge to release a discussion paper this spring as a basis for consultation regarding options for achieving the 60% waste diversion target. The paper will include the following discussion points:

*setting province-wide diversion objectives;

*setting diversion targets for residential waste that could be achieved through improvements to municipal blue box programs and increased composting;

*accelerating and expanding centralized composting in Ontario's largest municipalities;

*developing a financing strategy for centralized composting, including cost recovery mechanisms, municipal revenue generation, public-private partnerships, shared infrastructure agreements, and provincial assistance in the form of grants or loans;

*examining feasibility of phasing in a ban on organics and other recyclable materials in Ontario landfills;

*introducing new options for source separation for the industrial, commercial and institutional (IC&I) sectors;

*considering new and emerging waste management technologies;

*promoting packaging reduction and the increase of recycled content in paper and packaging;

*undertaking public education and awareness activities to promote 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle); and

*initiating province-wide tracking of waste going to landfill or export.

The third key step in the strategy consists of improving the environmental assessment (EA) process to support Ontario's waste management objectives. To this end, the Ministry of Environment will set up an advisory panel of expert practitioners to make recommendations in this area. The panel will be asked to develop proposals on possible approaches to improving the EA process for waste management facilities, transit and transportation projects and clean energy facilities. Its mandate will also include ensuring that recommendations maintain or enhance existing levels of environmental protection.

Panel members would include representatives from the municipal, waste management and clean energy sectors, the environmental community, academics, the consulting industry and the legal community. Together, they will:

*determine the most significant impediments to obtaining timely approvals for projects subject to the EA process; and

*examine the existing EA process and propose potential improvements by category of activity (e.g., in the areas of guidance, the review process, the environmental assessment approvals process, other approvals necessary following EA approval).

Another important measure in this area will be federal-provincial EA process co-operation: a draft framework agreement between Ontario and the federal government, to be released for comment, will outline a co-operative process for projects subject to both federal and provincial EA legislation. The draft agreement will outline the roles and responsibilities for each level of government.

Projects which are typically subject to both Acts include municipal or provincial projects that require federal environmental certificates, permits, licences, or involve federal funding, such as transportation infrastructure.

The agreement leaves legislative or decision-making responsibilities of each government intact. Any projects requiring both provincial and federal EA approvals will still require separate approvals. The goal is to avoid the unnecessary duplication, delays and uncertainty that could arise from separate EA processes while ensuring a high level of environmental protection.

The Ministry's approach was commended by industry, the municipal sector and non-governmental organizations alike.

"We believe that Minister Dombrowsky has set out a challenge to Waste Management and to other stakeholders with an interest in this issue to come up with a viable and sustainable public policy solution to Ontario's waste management crisis...Waste Management stands ready to assist in any way that we can to ensure that the Minister's initiative is successful," said Cal Bricker, vice-president of Waste Management.

"BFI Canada applauds the Minister of the Environment's initiative to review the Environmental Assessment process. We are encouraged by the direction that Minister Dombrowsky is taking, and believe that a review of the Environmental Assessment is long overdue," said Keith Carrigan, president and CEO of BFI Canada.

"The Minister's announcement is good news for the waste management industry in Ontario," said Robert Webb, vice-president of Republic Services Canada. "There is no secret to why so much of Ontario's waste goes across the US border. It has been virtually impossible to site new landfills in this province, despite significant improvements in how modern landfills are managed. The current EA process is badly flawed, and we will be pleased to provide expert advice and guidance to a review panel on establishing a process that is fair, timely and provides the highest standard of environmental protection."

"We applaud the Minister of the Environment's plans to reform the Environmental Assessment process in Ontario," said Paul Murray, general manager, eastern Canada, for the consulting firm Gartner Lee. "For years Environmental Assessments have been mired in a maze of uncertainty. Her initiative to establish an experts' panel, representing a broad range of interests, to provide her with advice and guidance in this endeavor is an important step. We are convinced that this panel can develop recommendations that will create certainty around process expectations and time lines for all parties interested in an Environmental Assessment."

"The Recycling Council of Ontario is delighted that the Minister is looking 'outside the blue box' to find opportunities to divert waste from Ontario landfills. We believe that improving diversion both from the industrial, commercial and institutional and construction and demolition sectors can contribute significantly to the new 60% provincial waste diversion goal," said RCO executive director Jo-Anne St Godard.

Toronto city councillor Jane Pitfield, who heads the city's waste management committee, said "the City of Toronto welcomes the provincial government's Waste Action Plan. This announcement demonstrates that Minister Dombrowsky has listened and is responding by providing municipalities with the necessary tools to manage and divert their waste responsibly."

"Addressing duplication between provincial and federal environmental assessment process[es] will give municipal governments some much needed clarity on approval of infrastructure projects," said Ann Mulvale, president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). "It's also encouraging that the panel will consider the fact that different categories of projects may need a different process," she added. With regard to the forthcoming discussion paper, Mulvale observed, "municipalities work at the end of the waste stream and it would be prudent to find out how we can work harder at the front end where the packaging is produced, and efforts for new technologies and recycling uses."

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