Scientist testing samples in a labThe Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) is one of 17 Ontario ministries that is required under the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 (EBR) to include the public in its environmentally significant decision making. Click on a heading below to learn about the MOECC and its EBR requirements and performance.

 

 

Key Environmental Aspects of the Ministry's Mandate

The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) is one of the most environmentally significant ministries prescribed under the EBR. The MOECC is the ministry tasked with “promoting clean and safe air, land, and water to ensure healthy communities, ecological protection and sustainable development for present and future generations of Ontarians.” In essence, the ministry is mandated with protecting and improving all facets of the environment. The key aspects of the ministry’s environmental protection role include:

  • Air pollution: the ministry regulates discharges to air, administers legislation (see the Environmental Protection Act (EPA)) and regulations aimed at limiting contaminant releases into the air. The ministry also issues approvals, allowing businesses to operate and discharge contaminants with conditions and restrictions intended to minimize environmental impacts. Air pollution includes not just chemical contaminants from industrial and other facilities, but also odours and noise.
  • Water: the ministry is tasked with protecting Ontario’s water resources, both in quantity and quality. The ministry administers several laws aimed at protecting Ontario’s drinking water, including the Clean Water Act, 2006 and the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002. The ministry also administers the Ontario Water Resources Act, which establishes rules restricting discharges of contaminants into water bodies (e.g., from industrial wastewater, municipal sewage, and stormwater). Under this Act, the ministry issues approvals, with conditions and restrictions in them, allowing limited discharges of wastewater. The ministry also issues Permits to Take Water, allowing businesses and individuals to take water from underwater aquifers, lakes and rivers in accordance with conditions set out in the permit. In addition, the ministry has several specific policies and rules aimed to protect some of Ontario’s significant and more at-risk water bodies, including the Great Lakes and Lake Simcoe.
  • Climate change: the ministry is the lead body in Ontario’s fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Contaminated land and spills: the ministry administers laws and regulations governing the use and clean-up of contaminated lands, as well as preventing spills and spill clean-up.
  • Waste diversion: the ministry regulates the management of waste in Ontario, including setting policies and rules for what materials should be diverted away from landfill through recycling and reuse, and by whom.
  • Reducing toxics: the ministry regulates pesticide use under the Pesticides Act and aims to reduce the use of toxic substances through the Toxics Reduction Act, 2009.

Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) Requirements

Statement of Environmental Values

Each ministry prescribed under the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) is required to develop a Statement of Environmental Values to guide ministry staff when making decisions that might significantly affect the environment. Read the Statement of Environmental Values of the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).

Public Notice and Consultation

Each ministry that is prescribed under the EBR is required to consult the public on certain environmentally significant proposals via the Environmental Registry. Specifically, the MOECC must give notice of, and consult on, any proposal to make or amend any policy or act that could have a significant effect on the environment.

In addition, the MOECC administers laws that are prescribed under the EBR. This means that the ministry must consult the public on any proposal, which could have a significant effect on the environment, to make or amend a regulation under any of the following acts:

The MOECC is also required to post notice on the Environmental Registry and consult on various “instruments” (e.g., permits, approvals, orders, etc.) that the ministry issues under the following four acts:

See the EBR regulation for a list of the classified instruments on which the MOECC must consult.

Applications for Review

Under the EBR, members of the public can ask the MOECC to review the need for a new environmental policy, act or regulation. In addition, the public may ask the ministry to review any of its existing policies, or to review any of the following acts, or regulations under any of these acts, in order to better protect the environment:

The public may also ask the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to review specific instruments (approvals, permits and orders) classified under the EBR that have been issued under the following acts:

The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change is required to consider all such requests, and to respond within 60 days of receiving the application to let both the applicants and the Environmental Commissioner know whether or not it will undertake the requested review.

Pending Requests for Review

Air pollution hot spots (R2008014)In January 2009, two applicants submitted an application requesting a review of the need for a new regulatory framework to fill gaps in Ontario’s air pollution laws related to cumulative impacts of pollution, particularly air pollution “hot spots.” Hot spots are described by the applicants as “multi-pollutant, multi-facility areas with significant background levels of pollutants or pollutant levels from local sources that exceed toxic air pollutant standards and areas impacted by persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic air pollutants from industrial sources.” The MOECC agreed to undertake the review in May 2009.

Review of the Environmental Bill of Rights (R2009016, R2010009, R2010003)In January 2010, two applicants filed a request for a new regulation under the EBR that would provide jurisdiction to stay a decision subject to a leave to appeal application made under the Act. Then in December 2010, another application asked for a review of the EBR in its entirety. In June 2012, another Application for Review requested that the EBR be amended to require that prescribed ministries post their Statement of Environmental Values consideration documents on the Environmental Registry. The MOECC agreed to undertake each of these requests for review as a single comprehensive review of the EBR itself.

Amendments to Waste Disposal Site Provisions under the Environmental Protection Act (R2013002)In July 2013, the ECO received an application that requested a review of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA). The applicants argued that the existing regulatory framework does not prevent proponents from proposing landfills at unsuitable sites. The applicants claimed that building landfills on such unsuitable sites can lead to groundwater contamination. As additional context for their application, they included a case study of the Richmond Landfill, located in the town of Greater Napanee, asserting that the site demonstrates the need to review and revise section 27 of the EPA.

Review of the Ontario Water Resources Act and Wells Regulation (R2013009)In January 2014, two applicants requested a review of the Ontario Water Resources Act and Ontario Regulation 903 (Wells). The applicants asserted that the current legislative and regulatory regime governing wells suffers from a variety of “serious interpretive problems, unacceptable loopholes, substantive shortcomings, and enforcement difficulties” that place groundwater resources and Ontario well users at risk. According to the applicants, these issues include ambiguity resulting from a failure to define key terms, blanket exemptions from certain requirements, and unacceptably low standards for certain construction, repair or decommissioning work.

Application for Review of the EPA regarding Spills from Regulated Pipelines (R2015004): In June 2015, the ECO received an Application for Review requesting changes to protect the environment from the adverse effects of petroleum hydrocarbon spills from regulated pipelines. The MOECC agreed to undertake a review as part of its next periodic review of the Environmental Penalty program under the EPA. The MOECC expects to complete the review by the end of 2017.

Applications for Investigation

The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change administers five acts that are prescribed under the EBR for Applications for Investigation. Members of the public can request that the MOECC conduct an investigation of an alleged offence under any of the following five acts:

Members of the public can also submit an Application for Investigation regarding classified instruments.

EBR Commitment Letter

In December 2015, the ECO invited prescribed ministries to renew their commitment to the EBR in writing. Read the ministry’s recommitment to the Environmental Bill of Rights.

EBR Report Card

The ECO evaluates prescribed ministries’ performance under the EBR. Here is the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change's EBR report card for the 2016/2017 reporting year.

ECO Comment: The MOECC has the highest EBR workload of all ministries. This year the MOECC discharged its EBR obligations very well, improving performance in several categories. In particular, the ECO commends the MOECC for clearing over 94% of its backlog of outdated proposals from 2015/2016; the ECO urges the MOECC to remedy its remaining outdated notices and to keep all of its proposals up to date. Posting late decision notices contributed to the ministry’s poor results in the promptness category; the ECO encourages the ministry to post all decision notices within 2 weeks of making the decision going forward. The MOECC’s new practice of posting status updates on applications for review, and providing in-person updates to applicants, is commendable and should be adopted by all ministries; however, actually completing some of those reviews remains shamefully slow, with the important issue of cumulative health effects in Aamjiwnaang still outstanding from 2009. The ministry should conclude all remaining overdue reviews in 2017/2018. The ECO is pleased that the MOECC responded more promptly this year to the ECO’s requests for proof of consideration of its Statement of Environmental Values. Finally, the ECO thanks MOECC staff for being consistently helpful and responsive to the ECO’s many requests for information and briefings, and for being highly engaged in improving the ministry’s EBR performance.

Category
Result
Trend
Comments
Quality of notices for policies, acts and regulations posted on the Environmental Registry
No Change in Trend icon
The MOECC continues to post high quality notices on the Environmental Registry for policies, acts and regulations.
Quality of notices for instruments posted on the Environmental Registry
No Change in Trend icon
The MOECC’s instrument notices are generally of high quality, although the ministry could do a better job in some cases of explaining the anticipated environmental impacts of proposals. While the MOECC now regularly includes links to most finalized instruments in decision notices, it still routinely fails to provide links to draft instruments in proposal notices.
Promptness of posting decision notices on the Environmental Registry
No Change in Trend icon
As in 2015/2016, the MOECC again posted fewer than half of the decision notices the ECO assessed within 2 weeks of the decision date. The ministry’s strong efforts in 2016/2017 to remedy its outdated proposals (necessitating late decision notices) may be responsible, at least in part, for the ministry’s low score in this category.
Keeping notices on the Environmental Registry up to date
Upward Trend icon
The MOECC remedied the bulk of its large number of outdated proposals in 2016/2017, bringing the ministry’s total number of outdated proposals down from 686 in 2015/2016 (representing 23.5% of the ministry’s open proposals at the end of that year) to 39 in 2016/2017 (representing just 3.2% of the MOECC’s open proposals at the end of the reporting year).
Handling of Applications for Review and Investigation
Upward Trend icon
The MOECC concluded 6 applications for review and 11 applications for investigation in 2016/2017. The ministry generally handled these applications well.
Avoiding overdue applications for review
Upward Trend icon
The MOECC concluded 3 overdue applications for review in 2016/2017, and was close to concluding 2 other overdue applications at the end of the reporting year. The MOECC has one more long overdue application that it should conclude as soon as possible. In 2016/2017, the MOECC started posting regular status updates for its undertaken applications for review on the Environmental Registry.
Considering Statements of Environmental Values (SEVs)
No Change in Trend icon
The ECO made 106 requests for SEV consideration documents from the MOECC in 2016/2017. The MOECC responded by providing the requested documentation promptly in most cases, with its response rate increasing by almost 12% since 2015/2016.
Co-operation with ECO Requests
No Change in Trend icon
The MOECC stood out this year as particularly co-operative with the ECO’s requests for information in 2016/2017. The ministry provided helpful briefings on a number of topics, including source water protection, environmental approvals and the renewable fuel standard for gasoline. The ministry was responsive and forthcoming with information and facilitated discussions between ministry experts and ECO staff. The ministry’s EBR co-ordinator also attended an EBR compliance information session at the ECO’s offices in September 2016.
Legend

Quality of Performance

Meets or exceeds expectations
Needs improvement
Unacceptable

Trend

Overall quality of performance unchanged since 2015/2016 icon
Overall quality of performance unchanged since 2015/2016
Overall quality of performance has improved since 2015/2016 icon
Overall quality of performance has improved since 2015/2016
Overall quality of performance has declined since 2015/2016 icon
Overall quality of performance has declined since 2015/2016

Ministry Comment

The Ministry is committed to providing timely information regarding decision notices. MOECC has remedied the majority of outdated proposals and is currently working to resolve the remaining ones. MOECC has also implemented a process to avoid future outdated notices. For example, the ministry now posts decision notices for environmental compliance approvals automatically from the Integrated Divisional System (IDS) to the Environmental Registry so that there is little to no delay between a decision date and the posting of the decision notice.

MOECC recognizes that the timeliness of some environmental compliance approval decisions could be improved. We are working to address this through the use of the Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR) and process improvements to drive higher quality submissions. These include using consultant report cards and returning incomplete submissions earlier in the process. Between April 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017, MOECC posted 1,670 decision notices on Environmental Compliance Approvals.

The MOECC also recognizes the legislative notice requirements for applications for review and commits to making timely decisions. The ministry provides updates on the status of reviews that it undertakes with applicants through direct communication and by posting quarterly status reports on the Environmental Registry. The ministry also provides details on its processes for applications for review as part of the status reports.

To view other ministries’ EBR report cards, go to Government Performance on this website and select the ministry of your choice.

The ECO’s full report to the Legislative Assembly on the 2016/2017 EBR report cards can be accessed here.

Key Outstanding ECO Recommendations

In our reports, the ECO makes recommendations to improve EBR compliance and environmental protection. The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has numerous outstanding ECO recommendations, including:

  • The ECO recommends that the MOECC invest in an overhaul of the Environmental Registry’s technical platform, in keeping with the broader Open Government initiative (2014/2015 Annual Report).
  • The ECO recommends that the MOECC increase the water-taking charge and expand its scope to apply to other water users, with a goal of recovering the full cost of the ministry’s water management responsibilities (2014/2015 Annual Report).
  • The ECO recommends that the MOECC enhance its efforts to eliminate the adverse effects of the industrial facilities within Chemical Valley on the Aamjiwnaang community and the environment (2013/2014 Annual Report).
  • The ECO recommends that MOECC conduct a comprehensive public review of the Environmental Assessment Act and related regulations (2013/2014 Annual Report).
  • The ECO recommends that the MOECC and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry prohibit wind power development in designated Important Bird Areas (2011/2012 Annual Report).

EBR Success Stories

ECO Recognition Award

Since 2000, the annual ECO Recognition Award has recognized the hard work of ministry staff in an initiative that benefits Ontario’s environment and meets the goals of the EBR. Every year, the ECO asks prescribed ministries to submit programs and projects to be considered for the award. The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has received the ECO Recognition Award three times:

  • In 2009, for its Project Green initiative, which sought to lessen the ministry’s environmental impact by focusing on its own internal practices
  • In 2005, for conservation of the Alfred Bog, southern Ontario’s largest remaining domed peatland (in conjunction with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing)
  • In 2004, for the ministry’s ambient environmental monitoring networks to collect, analyze and report on data on the province’s air, surface water and groundwater.

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