In 2009, the Ontario Legislature created the Green Energy Act (the GEA) and made a variety of associated changes to provincial statutes, regulations, policies, and procedures. These changes resulted in a significant restructuring of Ontario’s project licensing processes, energy plans, economy, and approach to environmental protection.
In 2009, Ontario Regulation 359/09 (Renewable Energy Approvals under Part V.0.1) made under the Environmental Protection Act was introduced to provide detailed rules for GEA implementation. However, the regulation does not address siting constraints for energy projects, which may be the most important environmental consideration with respect to wind turbine development. In recognition of this omission, the Ministry of the Environment (the Ministry) is now working to finalize a policy on offshore wind siting that will lay the foundation for developing more specific requirements for these projects in the regulation.
In a discussion paper released for public comment in June, the Ministry sets out various considerations related to the protection of human health and the environment relevant to offshore wind projects. One presented option is the establishment of an “Offshore Exclusion Zone”, or OEZ, of five kilometres for each offshore wind project. Proponents would be restricted from siting wind turbines within the OEZ, although related infrastructure, like transmission lines, will be located within the exclusion zones.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper appreciates this important first step towards recognition at the provincial level of the environmental impacts of improperly sited wind turbines. However, as recognized in the Discussion Paper, the establishment of an OEZ will not fully protect the integrity of our lakes for swimming, drinking, and fishing.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper supports the MOE’s efforts to protect the environmental, social, and cultural value of Ontario’s surface water. In order to complete this important work and to augment the proposed OEZ, we make the following specific recommendations:
1. The regulation should clearly identify five kilometres as a minimum setback distance subject to site specific, scientific review, rather than an exclusion zone. Each project should be identified on a case by case basis to determine whether a greater distance from shorelines or sensitive receptors is required.
2. All shorelines should trigger the proposed setbacks. The Ministry should remove the qualifier “major”, so that the setbacks apply to all shorelines, including all island shorelines.
3. In order to ensure that the public is consulted with respect to turbine siting, the Ministry should implement setbacks from other significant features in concert with those developed by the Ministry of Natural Resources. The siting policy should include setbacks from important features or receptors like Important Bird Areas, ecologically sensitive areas, and designated parks.
Please read our full comments here.