Important court decision impacts Ontario EA process

The Ontario Divisional court recently rendered a decision concerning the approval of the terms of reference for the environmental assessment of the proposed expansion of the Richmond Landfill owned by Canadian Waste Services (CWS). The court quashed the decision of the Minister of Environment’s approval of the terms of reference in a split decision of two judges versus one. Subsequently, the Government of Ontario and CWS filed with the Court of Appeal request leave to appeal the decision. The Court of Appeal is scheduled to decide on whether to grant leave by early August. If granted, the Court of Appeal will hear arguments within about seven months.

The section of the Environmental Assessment Act that is subject to interpretation of the Court was section 6.1(3) which allows proponents to create terms of reference that are tailored for each particular project. The issues that are central to the appeal are: whether the provision requires the EA to contain every single item that has been dealt with in historical environmental assessments and the consideration of the test to be applied to the court when it reviews a Minister’s decision.

This decision will have implications for any organization that is either planning or has already commenced an environmental assessment in Ontario.

For further information, see the Final Analysis column in the October/November edition.