Environmental Approvals For Transit Fast-Tracked



    McGuinty Government Move Means Transit Projects Will Be Completed Faster

    TORONTO, June 25 /CNW/ -

    NEWS

    A new six-month environmental assessment process means transit projects
will be built faster.
    This new process gives GO Transit, Metrolinx
(http://www.metrolinx.com/default.aspx) and municipal and provincial transit
authorities a six month window to consult with the public, undertake an
assessment of the potential environmental effects and identify mitigation
measures.
    GO Transit has announced that the first two projects moving forward under
the new rules will be the expansion of all-day GO Train service to Milton and
the extension of GO Train service from Oshawa to Bowmanville.
    The province has also finalized a <a href="http://www.ebr.gov.on.ca/ERS-WEB-External/displaynoticecontent.do?noticeId=MTAzMTAy&statusId=MTU1MTk3">Transit Priority Statement</a> setting out
the rationale and urgency for the new six-month process for public transit. It
identifies the important links between public transit and achievement of
provincial priorities such as the Greenbelt Act, Ontario's Growth Plan for the
Greater Golden Horseshoe, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other
provincial land use goals and objectives.
    Transit projects play an essential role in a strong economy, reducing
gridlock and fighting climate change.

    QUOTES

    "Our environment and our quality of life depend on an efficient transit
system - it's key to combating climate change," said Environment Minister John
Gerretsen. "More transit more quickly means we are getting single-occupant
cars off the road sooner, improving air quality and reducing commuting times."
    "The six-month process helps get transit projects up and running as
quickly as possible and people onto public transit sooner," said
Transportation Minister Jim Bradley.

    QUICK FACTS

    
    -   Since 2003, the province has invested $6.2 billion in public transit,
        including over $1.8 billion in GO Transit.
    -   The EA process for transit projects used to take between two and
        three years to complete.
    -   Move Ontario 2020, the government's 12-year transit plan, will result
        in 800 million new transit trips per year, taking 300 million car
        trips off GTA roads and will create 175,000 new construction jobs.

    LEARN MORE

    -   Move Ontario 2020
    (http://www.premier.gov.on.ca/news/Product.asp?ProductID=1383): McGuinty
government's action plan for rapid transit
    -   For more information on GO Transit services and routes
        (http://gotransit.ca)

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                                                                BACKGROUNDER
                                                 Ministry of the Environment
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                                                   June 2008

         A NEW ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT PROCESS FOR TRANSIT PROJECTS
    

    The Transit Projects Regulation - O. Reg. 231/08 - sets out a new
assessment process for transit projects. Projects covered by the regulation
include dedicated bus lanes, light/heavy rail lines, subways, new stations,
storage facilities, and ancillary services/facilities such as sidewalks, bike
lanes and landscaping associated with transit projects. These projects are now
exempt from having to conduct an individual or class environmental assessment
(EA).
    The steps in the new process mirror certain requirements of the
Environmental Assessment Act, including public and agency consultation, an
assessment of potential environmental effects and mitigation measures.

    Major features of the new assessment process for transit are:

    
    -   Proponents do not have to rationalize the need for transit or look at
        alternatives (only alternative construction methods) since the need
        for transit and the benefits to communities, the environment and the
        economy are clear.

    -   Only issues around matters of provincial importance, or Aboriginal or
        treaty rights will be considered by the Minister through the
        objection process.

    -   There is a six-month time limit on the process. The time line
        includes 120 days for consultation on positive or negative
        environmental impacts and preparation of an Environmental Project
        Report; a 30-day public and agency comment period; and 35 days for
        the Environment Minister to respond to public requests for a review
        of the project.
    

    Transit authorities can choose to conduct an individual environmental
assessment or one of three existing class EA processes (GO Transit and the
Ministry of Transportation each have a class EA, and municipalities can use
the Municipal Engineers Class EA).
    This assessment process for transit does not change the normal process of
up-front planning, including identifying existing environmental conditions and
expected impacts, resolving land use constraints, property acquisitions,
funding approval and construction.
    Once a proponent initiates the assessment process, timelines will apply.
However, if issues of provincial importance arise during the 120 day
consultation and documentation period, the proponent can take a timeout to
work out these concerns.
    Proponents can use the time-out provision only when issues or concerns
are associated with a matter of provincial importance related to the natural
environment or cultural heritage resource, or a constitutionally protected
Aboriginal or treaty right.

    Objection process

    Anyone can apply to the Environment Minister for a review of the project.
If the Minister is of the opinion that the project may have a negative impact
on a matter of provincial importance or Aboriginal or treaty rights, then
he/she could issue a notice requiring further study.
    Objections must be submitted to the Minister during the 30-day public
comment period.
    The Minister has 35 days to request additional studies or other actions.
If the proponent's response doesn't address the Minister's concerns, he/she
can demand the proponent undertake an individual environmental assessment or a
class EA.

    Determining matters of provincial importance

    When deciding to take a time-out or in reviewing a project, the proponent
and the Minister only need to consider impacts on matters of provincial
importance, or to Aboriginal or treaty rights. The following are some examples
of what may be considered a matter of provincial importance:

    
    -   provincial parks
    -   habitats of endangered or threatened species
    -   provincially-significant wetlands, woodlands, areas of natural or
        scientific interest, or protected surface or groundwater
    -   archaeological resources, heritage or cultural buildings, structures
        or features of provincial importance.
    

    An interim guide to the new transit assessment process is available to
proponents and the public on the Environmental Registry at www.ebr.gov.on.ca
(EBR No.010-3784).





For further information:

For further information: John Steele, Ministry of the Environment, (416)
314-6666; John Karapita, Minister's Office, (416) 314-6736; Nicole
Lippa-Gasparro, Minister's Office, (416) 327-1815; Bob Nichols, Communications
Branch, (416) 327-1158

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