Municipal Class Environmental Assessment Process

The Municipal Class Environmental Assessment (EA) is an approved process that municipalities must follow under the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act. Class EA projects are classified in terms of schedules (A, B or C) depending on the degree of impact to the environment:

  • Schedule A projects include normal or emergency operational and maintenance activities. Environmental impacts of these projects are usually minimal and; therefore, they are considered pre-approved.
  • Schedule B projects involve improvements and minor expansions to existing facilities. There is some potential for adverse environmental impacts and; therefore, these projects go through a screening process including public consultation.
  • Schedule C projects involve the construction of new facilities and major expansions to existing facilities. These projects must go through the entire EA planning process.

Phases of the Municipal Class EA process

The Municipal Class EA process includes five phases:

  • Identify the problem or opportunity.
  • A Notice of Study Commencement is issued at the beginning of the EA study.
  • Schedule A projects only require completion of Phase 1.
  • Identify alternative planning solutions to address the problem or opportunity by taking into consideration the existing environment.
  • Determine the preferred solution taking into consideration input from the public and review agencies.
  • A Public Information Centre is required during this phase of the EA study.
  • For Schedule B projects a project file is completed summarizing Phases 1 to 2, and a Notice of Study Completion is issued.
  • Examine alternative methods of implementing the preferred solution based on: 
    • The existing environment
    • Input from the public and environmental review agency
    • Anticipated environmental impacts
    • Methods of minimizing negative impacts and maximizing positive impacts
  • A Public Information Centre is required during this phase of the EA study.
  • In an Environmental Study Report or ESR, document a summary of the rationale, planning, design and consultation process undertaken through Phases 1 to 3.
  • A Notice of Study Completion is issued at the completion of the EA study.
  • The ESR is available for scrutiny by review agencies and the public. Official appeals can be made during a 30-day review period as outlined below.
  • Appeal Provision - If there are any outstanding concerns that are not resolved during project planning, the person or party with the concern must make a written request to the Minister of the Environment for a “Part II Order” within this 30-day review period. The “Part II Order” is a request that the project be subject to Part II of the EA Act (Individual EA), and is subject to formal governmental review and approval under the EA Act. An Individual EA generally applies to large scale projects, including new Provincial roadways.  If no “Part II Orders” are received, the project can proceed immediately to design and construction (Phase 5).
  • Complete contract drawings and documents.
  • Proceed to construction and operation.
  • Monitor construction and operations to make sure they adhere to environmental provisions and commitments as necessary.

Importance of public consultation

Consultation early in and throughout the process is a key component of environmental  assessment planning. While the Class EA establishes minimum requirements only, most proponents develop public consultation plans that exceed the minimum.

Members of the public who have concerns about the potential environmental effects of a project or the planning process being followed, have a responsibility to bring their concerns to the attention of the proponent early in the planning process, when the proponent has greater  flexibility to accommodate changes in the project development and the process.