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 2015/2016 reporting year.

ECO Comment: The MOECC has the heaviest EBR workload of all prescribed ministries, posting by far the most notices on the Registry and receiving the highest number of applications for review and investigation. The MOECC discharged its responsibilities relatively well, but consistently failed to post decision notices promptly. It also has a very large backlog of outdated proposal notices, which the ECO acknowledges the ministry has been working hard to remedy over the last two years. The ECO encourages the ministry to clear this backlog as quickly as possible. Similarly, the MOECC has a significant number of overdue reviews for which applicants are waiting. The ECO commends the MOECC for being consistently co-operative and helpful to the ECO, meeting with the Commissioner and providing information and briefings promptly.

Category
Result
Comments
Quality of Notices Posted on the Environmental Registry
The MOECC generally posts high quality notices. However, the ministry frequently fails to include links to key supporting documents, including draft or final approval documents, in instrument notices (e.g., permits to take water). Enabling the public to access supporting documents by clicking on a link is far superior to (and more efficient than) requiring the public to email the ministry to request a copy.
Timeliness of Decision Notices and Avoiding Outdated Proposals
The MOECC posted fewer than half of its assessed decision notices within two weeks of a decision being made. Although the MOECC remedied more than 800 of the 1,300+ outdated instrument proposal notices that the ECO identified in 2014/2015, the ministry only remedied 8 out of 94 outdated policy, act and regulation notices. As of April 1, 2016, the MOECC had 686 outdated notices on the Registry.
Handling of Applications for Review and Investigation
The MOECC concluded seven applications in 2015/2016; it denied two applications for review, undertook three reviews, and undertook two investigations. The ministry handled each of those applications very well. However, the MOECC has six long overdue applications – one dating back to 2009 – which it has yet to conclude.
Considering Statements of Environmental Values
The MOECC usually responds to the ECO’s requests for SEV consideration documents reasonably promptly.. However, for some notice types the MOECC takes the position that SEV consideration is not required, or that the consideration need not be specifically documented. The ECO disagrees, and in those cases considered the MOECC to have failed to consider its SEV.
Co-operation with ECO Requests
MOECC staff were extremely helpful to the ECO this year. MOECC staff regularly met with the Commissioner on a variety of issues, and provided briefings on source water protection and the proposed cap and trade program. The MOECC’s EBR co-ordinator is very helpful at facilitating the ECO’s requests for meetings and information.
Legend

Quality of performance:

Meets or exceeds expectations
Needs improvement
Unacceptable

Relative EBR Workload:

High
Medium
Low

Ministry Comment

Quality of Notices Posted on the Environmental Registry

The MOECC is committed to improving public access to information and modernizing the Registry to meet changes in societal expectations and technological innovations. The ministry plans to improve user friendliness, transparency and effectiveness of the Registry to enhance public participation in environmental decision making.

Timeliness of Decision Notices and Avoiding Outdated Proposals

The MOECC agrees that timely posting of decision notices is important and is implementing a new process to ensure that happens. A project is also underway to modernize the Environmental Registry which will assist in avoiding outdated notices.

Handling of Applications for Review and Investigation

The MOECC recognizes the need for timely responses to Applications for Review and Investigation. The ministry is providing updates to applicants this spring and, beginning in June 2016, will publish quarterly status reports on the Environmental Registry to keep the public informed.

Considering Statements of Environmental Values

The MOECC recognizes the importance of applying and documenting Statement of Environmental Values (SEV) considerations and will provide documents in a timely manner as requested.

Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) - Percentage of All Policy, Act and Regulation Proposal and Decision Notices, 2015/2016:

MOECC - Approximate Percentage of all Instrument Proposal and Decision Notices, 2015/2016:

MOECC by the numbers in 2015/2016
 
MOECC
All Ministries
Proposal and Decision Notices for Policies, Acts and Regulations Posted
50
210
Approximate Number of Instrument Proposal and Decision Notices Posted
Over 3,010
Over 3,530
Total Proposal and Decision Notices for Policies, Acts and Regulations Reviewed by the ECO
96
401
Outdated Proposal Notices as of April 1, 2016
686
839
SEV Consideration Documents Requested by the ECO
124
194
Applications Concluded
7
13

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 2015/2016 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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