by Suzanne Crellin
In Ontario there are many projects that are governed by the Environmental Assessment Act, waste management projects included. The Ministry of Environment calls this process “proponent driven”. In our case the proponent is Walker Industries, and proponent driven means they have responsibilities to inform the public and government about what they plan to do, how they plan to do it, and they must also provide studies about what impacts it will have and whether or not the project can be done safely.
Walker has had an open-house and has been engaged in what is called “public-consultation” where they send out flyers, put notices in the paper, and email and chat with the public. This is all done because the MOE requires them to include our concerns in the Term of Reference (ToR). The Terms of Reference is a large document Walker is compiling… likely around 100 pages in length, it’s going to outline all of the social and environmental concerns that we have brought to their attention or they have identified. Walker started their ToR in March, and this process typically takes 6-9 months before it is delivered to the Ministry of Environment.
They will need to take into account requirements from the Environmental Protection Act, The Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and other acts that are related to their project. They also have to inform Aboriginal Canadians about what they plan to do.
We are known in this process as “interested persons” and the Ministry of Environment has certain expectations of us too. We are advised to ask Walker a lot of questions and make comments about our concerns, learn more from the MOE about the EA process, and document our participation in the process. For example, if you talk to Walker by email, keep copies for yourself.
Once the Terms of Reference has been submitted both the public and the government have a set time period to make comments on whether it is adequate. The Minister of Environment will tell Walker if it is approved or if they need to modify it and submit another draft.
After Walker has completed all of the studies indicated in the ToR (ex. tests on the land and water, and studies on the social aspects of their proposal) they submit all of these, this is their Environmental Assessment.
We will have two very specific time periods as “interested persons” to review Walker’s EA, the 1st is 7 weeks long and the final one is 5 weeks. After that the Minister has several options. They can approve the project, refuse it, refer it to mediation, or refer it to a hearing. The EA will be physically available in several public venues that will probably include the local libraries as well as the MOE office. We can also request individual copies of it.
A hearing can be requested of the Minister of Environment regarding any inadequate portion of the EA (ex. a missing on inadequate test), or the entire EA if anyone deems it to be incomplete or inadequate. The hearing would be in front of the Environmental Review Tribunal.
Each review period, and the possible final hearing are all opportunities for the area municipalities, Oxford County, area citizens, and our experts such as geologists and hydrogeologists to make comments on Walker’s EA. This is where we need to speak up for ourselves and the health and reputation of our communities!
photo: Code of Practice- Preparing & Reviewing Terms of Reference in Ontario Pg 44
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