OOWA was recently invited to attend an information session held by the Ministry of the Environment & Climate Change (MOECC) to provide information regarding changes to the Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) process, as well as a planned Ministry reorganization (effective December 5, 2017). Of note for many of our OOWA members, the new MOECC structure includes a consolidated Environmental Assessment & Permissions Division, which will be responsible for all approvals, licenses, permissions, certificates, etc. Additional information about the new MOECC divisions can be found here.
In addition to the reorganization, the majority of the information session was intended to provide updates regarding changes to the approvals process for ECAs. MOECC is committing to a one year standard of service timeframe for all ECA applications, starting in 2018. Priority review status will still be available for situations requiring a faster turn-around time, such as a requirement to meet a funding deadline, innovative technologies, and presumably situations involving an immediate risk to the environment that needs to be corrected. A copy of the slides from the presentation can be found here and some highlights of the new process include:
- An augmented and more rigorous application screening process which may generate information requests to the applicant. Grossly deficient and/or incomplete applications may be rejected without an information request.
- Also of note is a requirement for Pre-Consultation for projects involving hydrogeological and surface water reports and effluent criteria. Applications for an ECA will now be required to demonstrate not only that a pre-consultation was conducted, but that the Ministry’s Regional Technical Support Staff and District Office staff are in general concurrence with the proposal. If this concurrence cannot be obtained, proof of attempted pre-consultation must be included with the ECA application. When questioned about how this is being communicated to the local and regional offices, we were advised that MOECC are providing training to staff in these offices regarding the new requirements, and they working towards developing a standard of service timeline for reviews by technical support staff.
- Stop-clock provision. The review clock can be stopped if the reviewer makes a request for information from the applicant, and will be started again once the information has been provided. So the one year period may be extended by the number of days the clock was stopped. The documentation indicates a maximum of 2 stop-clock provisions during the review, but MOECC Staff indicated during the information session that this is not “carved in stone”. Ministry staff were asked to clarify how the current review process (which can be rather inefficient in that a reviewer may send several requests for information over several days or weeks) will be consolidated to avoid unnecessary delays and repeated “stopping of the clock”. A new “review coordinator” will be assisting the technical reviewers to provide more consolidated review comments and requests for information.
The ECA Application From was recently updated and keep an eye on the Environmental Compliance Approvals pages on the MOECC website for an updated version of the Guide to Applying for an Environmental Compliance Approval, which will contain details of the updated process.
Hopefully these changes will improve the ECA process, as we all know it can be long and tedious. MOECC has relieved many of the back-logged ECA files, so we will see how things unfold as these changes take effect. If you have questions about these updates, please contact us.
Anne Egan, OOWA President