I hope this update finds everyone well. Recently the Province of Ontario has proposed changes to the Aggregate Resource Act. These proposed changes have been posted on the Province’s Environmental Registry website also known as “ERO” (Environmental Registry of Ontario). Any time the Province proposes changes to legislation, those proposals are posted on the ERO for public comment including from your local municipality.
According to the ERO posting, the purpose of the proposed changes are “to reduce burdens for business while maintaining strong protection for the environment and managing impacts to communities”. After a review of the initial posting, Council expressed some concerns with the proposed changes to the Aggregate Resource Act (referred to the ARA going forward) and has asked staff to prepare a report for their review.
One example is the proposed cutting of red tape by confirming that a local zoning bylaw can not be used to limit the depth of extraction. some municipalities, including Puslinch, have tried to use elevation based vertical zoning to permit extraction above the water table but not into the water table. Your Council will be discussing the value of vertical zoning in relation to aggregate extraction as part of our comments regarding this change. It is in our best interest that the local community has the decision capabilities to protect our environment, water and community. Responsible aggregate extraction should include a prohibition on below the water table extraction. It is so very important that individuals like yourselves comment on the Environmental Registry that local control over extraction of aggregate BEGINS to be in control of the local stakeholders, you and I. Puslinch has provided more than its fair share to supporting growth.
Another proposed change is to stop providing copies of approved Site Plans to the local municipality when a new pit is approved. These Site Plans are the “blueprints” for how a licensed pit will be operated and rehabilitated. This is a concern since this is the information that the rezoning decision was based on as part of the planning process. Also, the industry has a track record in our Township of not following site plans with no repercussion. So this change would make it harder for our residents to know if a particular operator is actually following the approved site plans.
Another significant proposal is the first bullet on the ERO, that speaks about the strengthening of source Water protection through a more robust application process that would allow Municipalities and others to officially object to licensed operators that want to expand extraction to below the water table and have their concerns heard by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.
To open a new pit or quarry an operator needs two approvals. Proper zoning under the local municipal bylaw and a License issued by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests (MNRF) which includes the approved Site Plans associated with that licence. . As I was recently told these are the two rails the train rides on. Once a site has been rezoned and licensed the process of applying for below the water table extraction only requires an amendment to the Licence and Site Plans with little if no recourse for the municipality since the zoning approval is considered to be to an undefined depth. Based on the proposed amendments the only real change from the current process would be that a Licensee would not be able to appeal a condition added to a licence relating to Source Water Protection that was added by the Minister. Operators would still be able to appeal any conditions added to the Site Plans by the Minister even if they were added to improve Source Water Protection. Its very important to point out the affect on our community on the below the water table extraction. The most significant impact is the loss of land. Aggregate companies are being subsidized by Puslinch taxpayers. If an aggregate company rehabilitates a pit/quarry, which rarely happens as they pay less tax on a pit vrs farmland or any other use other than gravel.
We are left with an open body of water that pays very little in tax for the end of time affecting all generations to come and tax payers. Across Ontario there is designation that Prime Agricultural land essentially a protected asset………except if you can truck it away as gravel!!
Your Council and staff along with local levels of Government are reviewing the proposed changes. We are very concerned with the vagueness along with the difficulty with correlating the proposed changes directly to the relevant legislation or policy.
I understand that this is a mountain of information to understand and I am no different. What I do know is that these proposed changes take what was little influence, I will not use control as an adjective as we have never had control over the future of our community in regards to aggregate extraction, and lessons the influence we currently have. The future of the entire west side of our wonderful community is at risk. As a community we all need to comment on the Environmental Registry and express that below the water table extraction needs to be prohibited for the mast majority of circumstances and put our Water and agricultural as a priority in this Province.
- Specifically mentioning that vertical zoning by-laws will not be permitted is terribly worrisome. As a Community we deserve the right to decide if its safe to extract below the water table.
- All amendments to aggregate site plans regardless if they are Minor or Major should be sent to the municipality for review.
- A system of self reporting of any kind in regards to aggregate industry can not be effective. if approved Site Plans are not provided to the local municipality since. the MNRF) has been ineffective at overseeing aggregate operations.
- Aggregate haul routes need to be defined as the Municipalities cannot maintain all route options to standards sufficient to support heavy truck traffic.
- Ministry of Natural Resources held a summit on these proposed regulation changes excluding Municipalities. The information these proposed changes represents a flawed study.
- Aggregate levy’s need to be increased to support Municipalities infrastructure funding deficits
- The proposed changes on the Environmental Registry are not reflected in the proposed changes to the ARA. Residents should be able to see what changes are being proposed to specific components of all Provincial legislation, regulation, standard or policies that will achieve the stated outcomes.
I encourage you comment to the Province the proposed amendments. The listed items above do not represent an all inclusive set of concerns, however with the short amount of time they represent our serious concerns.
Here is a link to the proposed changes https://ero.ontario.ca/notice/019-0556
Submission must be made by November 4th 2019 on the Environmental Registry of Ontario or contact
Mayor of Puslinch