Status of Environmental Assessments for Transportation, Infrastructure and Utility Projects on the Oak Ridges Moraine since 2001

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Data Collection


Under the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan (ORMCP), infrastructure projects are required to conform to Section 41. This section covers utilities, infrastructure and transportation and includes highways, transit and rail lines, gas and oil pipelines, sewage systems, water supply systems, stormwater management facilities, power transmission lines and telecommunication lines. Given the broad application of this section, there are multiple sectors to which it applies; these include, but are not limited to:

  1. highway and associated infrastructure projects undertaken by the federal government,
  2. construction or expansion of provincial highways,
  3. roads, water and wastewater projects by upper- or lower-tier municipalities,
  4. roads, water, wastewater and stormwater projects by developers,
  5. major power transmission projects by companies such as Hydro One, and
  6. major gas pipeline projects by companies such as Union Gas or Enbridge.

Federal projects such as those listed in #1 above are subject to an environmental assessment (EA) as outlined by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. All other projects (#2-6) are subject to an EA as outlined in Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Act. The EA process is designed to be “a decision-making process used to promote good environmental planning by assessing the potential effects of certain activities on the natural and human environment.”2 The process gives individuals and organizations the opportunity to comment on the projects at multiple stages.

The EA for a specific project could take the form of an individual EA, which is carried out under supervision of the Ministry of the Environment, or it could fall under a Class EA, in which the EA process is tailored for certain project types. The Class EA process is pre-approved by the Ministry and is for projects that are “carried out routinely and have predictable and mitigable environmental effects, and therefore, do not warrant an individual environmental assessment.”3 Many of the projects examined in this report fall under the municipal class EA process. Within municipal class EAs, schedules A, B, and C represent increasing potential environmental impact and require increasingly rigorous evaluation.

(For a summary of the Municipal Class EA process, click here

2 Ministry of the Environment, Environmental Assessment and Approvals Branch. 2005. Green Facts: Environmental Assessments in Ontario.

3 Ministry of the Environment, Environmental Assessment and Approvals Branch. 2002.


1. Federal Projects
Information about EAs for federal projects was obtained from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry website ( The registry was searched by municipality; further refinements documented those projects that lie within the moraine plan area. Federal EA project managers were helpful in clarifying the location of several of these projects.

2. Provincial Highways
Collecting information about EAs for the construction or expansion of provincial highways required a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Transportation. Within just over a month of the request (and for a small fee), the Ministry provided basic information about each provincial highway-related EA that has taken place on the moraine since November 2001.

3. Municipal Infrastructure Projects
A list of EAs for roads, water and wastewater projects by upper- and lower-tier municipalities was generated through consultation with a number of sources, primarily the proponents themselves. Each of the eight upper- and 24 lower-tier municipalities on the ORM was contacted to provide information about the location of specific municipal EA projects, the type of undertaking they represent, and their current status. In most cases, municipal staff willingly provided the information, however several municipalities chose not to participate (Cavin-Monaghan, Hamilton, Markham, Whitchurch-Stouffville). As a method of verifying information provided by staff, each municipal website was checked for references to EAs taking place on the ORM. Also, the nine conservation authorities of the Conservation Authorities Moraine Coalition were contacted to verify municipal EAs and provide information on any additional projects. The Ministry of the Environment website proved to be a good source for data on specific projects that triggered provincial attention.



4. Projects by Developers
The MTM partners were unable to collect data relating to any developer-initiated infrastructure or transportation projects on the moraine. Without a central body tracking data about private projects and given the limited number of developer-initiated projects that require an EA (i.e., a Schedule C level), it wasn’t possible to obtain any information.

5. Power Transmission Projects
Data on current power transmission EAs were obtained from the Hydro One website. However, the MTM partners were unable, within the time available, to obtain information regarding past projects.

6. Gas Pipeline Projects
The MTM partners were unable, within the time available, to gather any information on EAs for natural gas infrastructure. Both Enbridge and Consumers Gas requested that STORM make requests through the respective Human Resources departments. Given the unlikely success of this approach in the time available, a decision was made not to pursue this avenue.
Despite the extensive data collection methods described above, the inventory of projects presented in this report likely does not represent a complete list of all EAs that have taken place on the Oak Ridges Moraine since November 2001.


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