Lake Ontario Waterkeeper submits comments on Phase One - Review of the Ontario MNR’s waterpower and windpower site release policies and procedures
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 policies and procedures are referred to here as: the Windpower Policy, the Windpower Procedures, the Waterpower Policy, and the Waterpower Procedures. The four 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. It began with the development of the, “Approval and Permitting Requirements Document for Renewable Energy Projects”, which was posted on the Environmental Registry on June 9, 2009. On July 24, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper submitted a comment on the draft document. A revised version was released on
September 24, 2009. On that same day, the MNR requested comments on whether it should change its water and wind power site release policies to comply with the GEA. The Ministry has placed a moratorium on new applications for these kinds of projects on Crown land until the review is completed.
The Ministry will undertake this review in two phases. The ﬁrst will focus on aligning the procedural requirements of the policies with the Act. The second will look more broadly at the long-term purpose behind the site release policies in the context of the current government’s approach to “green energy”. The review will include an examination of the feed in tariff process and how approvals can be “streamlined”.
LOW submitted comments on to the MNR on November 2, 2009 on the abstract idea of adapting the site release policies to the GEA. The proposal was uploaded to the Environmental Registry again on December 22, 2009 for an additional 45 days of public comment. This latest review period focuses on the speciﬁc proposed Phase One revisions to the waterpower and windpower site release policy and procedure documents. Lake Ontario Waterkeeper attended an information session on the proposed changes on January 27, 2010 in Toronto. The following comments were informed by both the proposed textual changes and the context provided by that information session. Most of our comments are relevant to “Phase Two”, as deﬁned by the MNR, but are offered at this time to encourage consideration throughout the revision process.
A summary of our current comment is as follows:
The Ministry’s site release policies and procedures must require consideration of the environmental impacts of each potential project in order to protect the
environment and to be consistent with the Statement of Environmental Values.
The site release policies should prevent cumulative impacts by addressing the density of proposed projects.
The MNR must consider the impacts and interactions of the IPSP while revising the site release policies.
Set-backs should continue to be enforced as part of the site release policies, and information about receptors should be gathered by all available means,
including public consultation.
The public must be notiﬁed and provided with the opportunity to comment before the Ministry makes any decisions about site release.
The site release policies should not allow for closed-door meetings between proponents and Ministry staff outside of discussions limited to procedural
aspects of a site release application.
To read our entire submission in PDF version, click here.