The Toronto Port Authority’s Environmental Assessment (EA) – Know Your File
On April 29, 2014 the Toronto Port Authority (TPA) called for Request(s) for Proposal (RFP) for an environmental assessment (EA) and a preliminary runway design as the city’s requirement for council to give any further consideration to Porter’s jet scheme.
On August 20, 2014 the TPA announced the start of the EA process and the winners of the RFP. The port authority’s announcement offered a self-serving justification for flouting council’s vote by asserting that the EA’s purpose for going ahead without agreeing to caps is to provide the city with further information.
Interestingly, the detailed RFP stated the port authority’s claim that it doesn’t have to undertake an EA under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (2012) (the ACT) because the TPA proposes to lengthen the existing by 400 metres not the 1 500 metres or more cited in the Act’s regulations. Then in its self-described role as a “a prudent land owner, federal business enterprise and authority and steward of the waterfront”, the Toronto Port Authority ignoring its refusal to co-operate with the city, claims that it “is committed to ensuring that an appropriate EA is completed that is consistent with the Act and practices that are common to airports and marine environments throughout Canada”.
The problem with the claim is that the TPA doesn’t seem to be following the ACT itself.
The Toronto Port Authority, as noted above, cites the ACT’s Regulations. The ACT’s Regulations refer to a “designated project” and it is the port authority’s contention that its EA is not necessary because the proposed lengthening falls outside the “designated project” description. However, what the TPA seems to have ignored or missed are the definitions in Section 66 of the ACT. Section 66 references, through Schedule 1, a port authority as an authority that is sanctioned to undertake an EA for projects that aren’t “designated projects”. Section 66 states, “project” means a physical activity that is carried out on federal lands or outside Canada in relation to a physical work and is not a designated project.”
Significantly, Section 66 applies the definitions above to Section 5. Section 5 refers to fish habitat and migratory birds, the very species that stand to be impacted by jets at a lengthened runway on the island airport, part of which is federally owned land. Indeed, the port authority’s RFP states that the EA will take into account
1) Any changes that may be caused to the following components of the environment that are within federal jurisdiction:
a) fish and fish habitat, as defined in the Fisheries Act;
b) aquatic species, as defined in the Species at Risk Act;
c) migratory birds, as defined in the Migratory Birds Convention Act; and,
d) other components previously considered in prior EAs such as air quality; noise and vibration; visual; navigation; transportation; traffic; parking; wildlife species and habitat; species at risk; soils and sediments; surface and groundwater; vegetation and wetlands.
It appears, then, that although the Toronto Port Authority intimates that it is conducting its EA through the goodness of its heart, it appears the ACT says something else. It also appears that the Canadian Environmental Association (CEAA) might have something to say about the matter.
The CEAA’s frequently asked question page states the federal and provincial governments shares responsibility for the environment and environmental assessment. Furthermore, the CEAA may designate any part of an EA to a province.
On August 20, 2014 the Toronto Port Authority announced its go-ahead with the EA and in an instance of what appears to be a monumental case of hubris invited the city to join in. It also invited several provincial agencies. It did not include Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment.