January 8, 2007

Draft regs designed to speed EA process for waste management projects

Ontario's proposed Waste Management Projects regulation, together along with codes of practice released last October by Environment Minister Laurel Broten, will speed and streamline the environmental assessment (EA) process for such projects, as well as encouraging innovative new technologies, says the Minister. The new rules would apply equally to public and private sector waste proposals.

Previously, private-sector landfills and other waste projects had to be specifically designated by regulation as subject to the requirements of the Environmental Assessment Act. The proposed changes will:

*support waste diversion efforts by exempting composting and recycling facilities from the environmental assessment process if accepting under 1,000 tonnes of waste per day;

*encourage innovative technologies by streamlining the EA process for pilot projects which have demonstrated they are environmentally-friendly and can meet the Ministry of Environment's air emissions standards;

*help small rural and northern Ontario municipalities manage their waste better by allowing landfill expansions of between 40,000 and 100,000 cubic metres to go through an environmental screening process;

*provide faster decisions for proponents building environmentally-sound, state-of-the-art medium-sized landfills and thermal facilities generating energy. These projects could see time savings of 12 to 18 months.

Large landfills and thermal facilities without an energy component would remain subject to an individual environmental assessment.

Waste projects will continue to require approval under the Environmental Protection Act and other legislation. And thermal or energy-from-waste facilities will need to meet the stringent standards laid out in the ministry's combustion and air pollution control guideline.

The proposed regulation classifies waste projects based on the type of waste, the size and, in some cases, the ability to generate energy (EcoWeek, January 1). Projects will fall under one of three process streams:

1. Projects with minimal environmental effects will not require approval under the Environmental Assessment Act. These would include:

*transfer, handling and composting facilities processing 1,000 tonnes of waste or less per day;

*industrial, commercial or manufacturing facilities using energy from waste in their process if using less than 100 tonnes of waste per day; and

*landfills smaller than 40,000 cubic metres.

2. Projects that have predictable environmental effects that can be readily mitigated would undergo an environmental screening process. These would include:

*transfer, handling and composting facilities processing more than 1,000 tonnes of waste per day;

*landfills or landfill expansions with total disposal volume of between 40,000 and 100,000 cubic metres;

*thermal facilities with energy-from-waste component; and

*thermal facilities without an energy-from-waste component if disposing of ten tonnes of waste or less per day.

3. Projects with the potential for significant environmental impacts will require an individual environmental assessment. These would include:

*final disposal of liquid industrial or hazardous wastes; and

*large landfills with a total waste disposal volume of more than 100,000 cubic metres.

Projects that must undergo an environmental screening process can be "bumped up" to an individual environmental assessment, if warranted.

The proposed environmental screening is a self-assessment process with 14 mandatory steps requiring a minimum of four consultation periods. A proponent's failure to comply with the requirements outlined in the environmental screening process would be a contravention of the Environmental Assessment Act.

Some of the key steps in the screening process require a proponent to:

*consult on the proposed project, including plans for establishing, constructing, operating, changing, expanding or retiring the project;

*define and describe the potential negative or positive environmental impacts on surface and ground water, land, air and noise, the natural environment, resources, heritage, culture and Aboriginal communities, and any socio-economic issues; and

*conduct studies to determine what the impacts will be, and detail what mitigation and/or monitoring measures will be required;

Following consultation on the studies and identification of mitigation and/or monitoring measures, the proponent must assess the advantages and disadvantages of the project, and any concerns brought forward by stakeholders. At this point, it may be found that further studies may be needed to address concerns.

Once the screening process is complete, the proponent will be required to prepare an environmental screening report and make it available to stakeholders for a 60-day comment period. If no comments are received, the proponent can proceed with a statement of completion. At this point, the project may proceed subject to any other required approvals.

The draft regulation includes transition provisions. If a project was previously subject to an individual EA and the proponent had submitted its EA or terms of reference for the EA), the proponent can switch to the environmental screening process instead of completing the review as an individual EA, but only within 60 days of the regulation becoming law.

The draft Waste Management Projects regulation and draft guide have been posted to the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry at www.ene.gov.on.ca/envregistry/028964er.htm. Comments are due by March 7, 2007.

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