On November 12, 2013, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper heads to federal court with Greenpeace and Northwatch, represented by the Canadian Environmental Law Association and Ecojustice. We’re asking the court to quash approvals for nuclear expansion in Darlington, Ontario.
But wait, you say, didn’t Ontario cancel the new Darlington nuclear project? Not officially. The province has suggested that more nuclear power is not needed “at this time” but said that the approvals can be dusted off any time in the next decade if things change.
Our court case pre-dates Ontario’s recent backtracking on nuclear power. Because the Province is still hanging onto its approvals, we’re hanging onto our court date.
Those approvals stem from a deeply flawed process that jeopardizes Lake Ontario and Ontario residents. A project of this importance should not go forward if it can’t pass the scrutiny of a proper environmental assessment.
Here are just a few examples of key ways the Darlington new build failed to meet several legal requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act:
- Failure to apply the guiding principles of the Act, including the precautionary principle and the duty to promote sustainable development and environmental and human health;
- Incorrect restriction of the scope of the environmental assessment of the project;
- Failure to consider whether there was a need for the project, or whether there were viable alternatives; and,
- Incorrect conclusion that a major nuclear project would have no significant adverse environmental effects.
We brought this case ages ago, as soon as the Darlington new build was approved. In recent weeks, Ontario has said we don’t need a new nuclear power plant after all. This is exactly the point that we tried to make two years ago during the hearing and exactly why a rigorous environmental assessment is required early in the planning process.
In mid-October, the Government of Ontario announced it would not be investing in new nuclear. An Ottawa Citizen article reported “Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli says Ontario has a comfortable surplus of electricity and will not need to spend money now to build new reactors." This underscores our argument that the environmental assessment failed to demonstrate there was a need for 2 new nuclear reactors in Ontario (never mind the 4 reactors that were actually approved).
Ontario does not need new nuclear at this time agrees the Pembina Institute and Greenpeace: http://t.co/3baz57tNCp
— Bob Chiarelli (@Bob_Chiarelli) October 25, 2013
Nuclear expansion is an enormous undertaking. Billions of dollars. Decades of work. Millions of fish killed. Lake Ontario compromised. And those are just the impacts that the assessments confirmed. With stakes like this, we believe that Ontarians at least deserve the best decision-making process our governments have to offer.
What’s more, if we let the new build approval go unchallenged, then we set Ontario up for more failures in the future: we’d be saying that half-baked environmental assessments are okay, that decision-makers can gloss over important issues, that every future environmental assessment can be merely “a plan to make a plan.” That’s not acceptable, and so we’re going to court this week.
Waterkeeper still believes that a transparent, fact-based, rigorous review led by an independent decision-maker with no stake in the project is the absolute best way to make decisions about complex proposals. That’s what the law promises us. And that’s what Ontarians deserve.