The New Ontario Environmental Discharge Permitting Process

By now you know that on October 31, 2011, the Ontario Ministry of Environment (MOE) changed the environmental discharge permitting process.  The original Certificate of Approvals (CofA) process is now the Environmental Activity & Sector Registry (EASR) and Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA).

The details of this new regulation can be found at the MOE’s website (bottom of page); but here are a few common questions and answers as it relates to the new permitting process.

How does this new permitting process differ from the old CofA process?  There are several changes, you might want to go to the MOE’s website to become more familiar with the changes (see link below), but one of the significant changes to the process is that the old CofA required multiple approvals for individual processes and equipment.  Now, depending on the process and activities, you can apply for a single “all inclusive” approval.

Who qualifies for the EASR.  The EASR allows you to register certain activities with the MOE, rather than apply for an approval. The registry is available for common systems and processes, which a preset rules of operation can be applied.  The EASR has limited applicability; it is currently available for heating systems, standby power systems, and automotive refinishing.  If you don’t qualify for an EASR, then you would apply for an ECA using the new “smart application form.”

Do I even need a discharge permit?  According to the MOE, “If a business’s activities impact the natural environment, that business needs an approval from the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) to operate legally in Ontario.”  The basic rule is if you currently have or are going to discharge a “pollutant” to the environment, you need a permit. 

What about me, I have an existing CofA, do I need to reapply? No. If you have an existing Certificate of Approval (CofA prior to October 31, 2011), it will continue to apply and will be treated as an ECA.  You need to do nothing at this time.  However, if you plan to add to or modify a process for which you currently have a CofA, you may have to reapply.  Other activities that may require changes from CofA to ECA include changes in ownership of a facility.

Is there still a Comprehensive Certificate of Approval?  What used to be a Comprehensive CofA is now an ECA with Limited Operational Flexibility. 

Is there anything I need to do? This much has not changed; if you are going to have a discharge to the environment (air, water, or noise), you need a permit.  The name has changed, the process is (hopefully) better, but you still need a permit.  All ECA permits must meet the requirements in O.Reg 255/11 of the Environmental Protection Act.

To read more about the ECA process, go to the Ontario Ministry of Environment’s website (below).  If you need assistance with an environmental permit, contact Christopher Pare’ ( at 519-979-7300.


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