Fixing environmental assessments: Waterkeeper, Red Hill group apply for a review of Ontario's EA Act
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and Friends of Red Hill Valley are requesting Section 11.4 of the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act be amended to provide more clarity about the review process and that all approvals issued under the Act in the future contain expiration or renewal dates.
The grounds for our request are as follows:
I. The Red Hill Creek Expressway experience reveals serious flaws in the Act II. Section 11.4 breaches the public's right to a timely, written decision III. Section 11.4 is inconsistent with the Purpose of the Act IV. Section 11.4 is inconsistent with the Ministry of Environment's Statement of Environmental Values V. Termless approvals inappropriately constrain future decision-making VI. Termless approvals are inconsistent with the Purpose of the Act VII. Termless approvals contradict the Ministry of Environment's Statement of Environmental Values VIII. Termless approvals are inconsistent with normal licencing practices
In addition to these reasons, a new development in the Red Hill valley reinforces the seriousness and importance of our request:
When the Red Hill Creek Expressway was approved in 1985, it was stated that the project would not impact the Niagara Escarpment. More recently, the project design was modified to include an 80-metre wide cut in the face of the Escarpment. This rock was to be used in the construction of the highway, an activity that was never included in the 1985 approval.
On September 28, 2006, the City of Hamilton was informed that this rock is sub-standard and its use is not an option on this Project. The city must either find an alternate use for the material, or dispose of it and lose $2.5-million. Against the advice of environmentalists and community members, the environmental assessment process was circumvented; as a result, an unjustifiable hole has been blasted through one of the most precious ecological landmarks in Southern Ontario.
We submit that this grave planning error is a direct result of the flaws in the environmental assessment process described in our application for review. If the Minister of the Environment had been compelled to respond to our request for review under Section 11.4 or if the 1985 approval had been subject to a renewal process, this change to the project design would have received the scrutiny it so clearly deserved.