In 2004, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (the Ministry or the MNR) introduced policies and procedures to govern applications to develop wind or waterpower energy projects on Crown land, as defined under the Public Lands Act. The documents provide guidance for Ministry staff and prospective proponents on how to navigate the energy project development process.
In 2009, the Ontario Legislature promulgated the Green Energy and Economy Act (the GEGEA). The GEGEA created the Green Energy Act (the Act) and introduced changes to a variety of statutes, regulations, policies, and procedures administered by various ministries. It resulted in massive changes to Ontario’s project licencing processes, energy plans, economy, and approach to environmental protection, including reductions in licencing and approvals processes under the Ontario Water Resources Act and the Environmental Protection Act.
In order to determine if the Ministry’s policies need to change to comply with the GEA, the MNR has instituted a policy review. The Ministry has placed a moratorium on new applications for these kinds of projects on Crown land until the review is completed.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper intends to participate throughout the Ministry’s review process.
Our preliminary recommendations on the MNR's wind and waterpower site release policies are:
1. The Ministry of Natural Resources should strive to be a source of environmental protection in the face of the rollbacks to environmental protection introduced through the Green Energy Act.
2. The Ministry must consider its Statement of Environmental Values, including the obligation to work for ecological sustainability, in any decision regarding a change to its policies and procedures.
3. The Windpower Policy and Procedures should be expanded to include limits on the density of energy project development in a given area.
4. The Ministry should increase requirements for public notification and consultation at each stage of a project application, especially before meeting with the proponent behind closed doors.
5. The Ministry’s policies and procedures should clearly state that Ministry advice to proponents shall be restricted to procedural instructions and formatting requirements. Outside of these bounds, advice given by the MInistry to proponents on substantive aspects of an application must be subject to public scrutiny and review.
6. The public should be notified and consulted at every stage of the proposed changes to the Ministry’s site release policies. Pursuant to the Environmental Bill of Rights, the draft documents containing the proposed changes must be posted to the Environmental Registry. All further changes proposed as part of the review should also be posted for public review and comment through the Registry.