Environmental Compliance for Business 101

Breaking down the Environmental Compliance Approval Process

In Ontario, any business that releases pollutants into the air, land or water or stores, transports or disposes of waste, is required to have an environmental compliance approval from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).

Under the old system, businesses applied for a Certificate of Approval (CofA) – now known as Environmental Compliance Approval (ECAs) – and had to wait years for their application to be reviewed and hopefully approved. In an effort to streamline the process and reduce wait times, the Ministry launched a modernization process, which created two compliance pathways rather than one.

Environmental Compliance: EASR vs. ECA

The new system has two forms of approvals: Environmental Compliance Approval (ECAs) and Environmental Activity Sector Registry (EASR). They both require air and noise studies to be conducted before any permit application can happen. Both the ECA and the EASR will provide an approval to discharge contaminants into the environment but the one you apply for depends on the nature of your business and what you are emitting.

Professional Engineer Required for Both Applications

The simplified answer is that for more complicated operations with higher potential for environmental impacts, an ECA is required – for example, mining, sewage treatment or metal manufacturing. The EASR is used for more common activities or operations with less potential impact such as power distribution, automotive shops, or food preparation. A large majority of commercial and small industrial sites which previously needed an ECA are now eligible for EASR. All eligible activities that do not have an existing ECA are required to be registered with the EASR.

There have also been additions to the Ministry’s list of exempted equipment, such as cooling and heating units or emergency standby generators. This means that common facilities such as grocery stores or condominium buildings may not need an approval at all.

There are some similarities in the application process:


  • Air and noise studies and technical report by a third party professional engineer
  • Reviewed by Ministry before permit is granted
  • Fee is based complexity of the site


  • Air and noise studies and technical report by a third party professional engineer
  • Uploaded online and permit granted instantly
  • Fixed fee for all sites; similar cost to a typical ECA approval

Environmental Compliance Approval Timing

The EASR process provides permits instantly since it does not require ministry review for approval. For the more complex Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) application, it is now much quicker than in the past and approvals are often received in less than a year.

Business woman reviewing report from Engineering Consultant for Environmental Compliance Approval from MOECC.Ensuring High Quality Reports for Environmental Compliance

While adding multiple applications to the process, the government has actually streamlined the system because it also changed the air and noise studies requirements. Having faced thousands of poorly prepared reports, the Ministry provided a clear outline that standardizes the information to be included on applications and created a mechanism for reporting poorly prepared reports. By requiring professional engineers to complete the report, those falling below the standard can be reported to the regulatory body, the Professional Engineers Ontario. It is now against the law to forget certain statements and specific information in the report. This can spell serious issues for a facility making an application if they hire a consultant that does not have a firm understanding of the requirements.

Professional Engineering Consultants Can Help Guide Through the Process

When preparing to submit an application, consider which permit is best for your operations and who can complete the requirements. Hiring an engineering consultant solely on price may not be the best choice. Hiring based on experience can be beneficial in the long run because it can make your overall environmental compliance application process smoother. Find a professional engineer with experience conducting the appropriate noise studies and drafting technical reports.

Securing your environmental permit is not only important to your operations but your reputation as well. If your submission is audited and the noise report is found to be faulty, you could lose your permit or in the worst case, you have to shut down operations until your revised report is approved. It is important to get it right the first time.


If you would like further guidance through this process, our team of engineering consultants has experience preparing reports for environmental compliance approvals. Feel free to contact us online, via email: [email protected] or call 416-249-3361.