The approval processes for energy projects conducted by the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) were profoundly impacted by the introduction of the Green Energy Act. The MNR is responsible for the administration of Crown land in Ontario under the Public Lands Act, so that any developments on Crown land must receive land use approval from the Ministry. Since the beds of most lakes in Ontario are Crown land, offshore wind project proponents require approval from the MNR before they begin the MOE’s Renewable Energy Approval process. Accordingly, the MNR has been undertaking a phased review of the process by which Crown land is made available for energy projects, including offshore wind projects, since the introduction of the GEA.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has been actively participating in the MNR’s review through written comments and consultation sessions. On July 24, 2009 LOW submitted a comment on the draft approval and permitting document. LOW submitted comments on to the MNR on November 2, 2009 on the abstract idea of adapting the site release policies to the GEA. On February 4, 2010, LOW submitted comments on the specific proposed Phase One revisions to the waterpower and windpower site release policy and procedure documents.
The MNR is now seeking input on features or “receptors” that should trigger a setback for energy project siting. Examples include navigation lanes, sensitive environmental areas, commercial fishing zones, and other “Great Lake specific considerations”.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper provided the following recommendations to the MNR regarding offshore wind power development:
1. Clearly identify the constrained areas as a minimum or starting point, subject to site specific, scientific review of each individual proposal.
2. Base the list of constrained areas on the public’s rights to swim, drink, and fish in ecologically healthy and accessible waterways.
3. Extend protection to all shorelines, even of so-called “minor” islands.
4. Incorporate substantial public consultation and comment rights in siting policies in order to identify and respond to site specific and community concerns.
Read LOW's full comments here.