Waterkeeper.ca Weekly did not appear last week because of the Canadian holiday, but it's been a busy two weeks here at Lake Ontario Waterkeeper! A few updates from our Toronto office:
Clean Water Workshop: Each year, Waterkeeper teams up with Pro Bono Students Canada to run the Clean Water Workshop. The Workshop is a volunteer project for law students looking for hands-on experience in environmental law and Waterkeepers who need research assistance. In previous years, law students have helped research appeals, draft submissions under the Environmental Bill of Rights, and study compliance issues. This year, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper is collaborating with five other Canadian Waterkeeper programs, seven law schools, and twenty-seven students to work on some of Canada's most pressing water quality issues. The Clean Water Workshop begins today.
Pickering B Refurbishment: In June 2006, the Minister of Energy issued a directive to Ontario Power Generation regarding the feasibility of refurbishing reactor units at the Pickering B nuclear power plant. OPG has now communicated its intent to refurbish Pickering B Units 5, 6, 7, and 8 to extend the operating life of the units to 2060. Without refurbishment, Pickering B would cease to operate in about a decade, signaling a major shift towards other forms of energy in Ontario. On October 13, Waterkeeper submitted our comments on the draft scope of the Pickering B environmental assessment. We offered a series of recommendations, including: the environmental assessment be referred to a review panel; the need for nuclear refurbishment be studied; the geographic boundaries be expanded to include potential environmental impacts on the GTA. Our full comment is available online. (More)
Draft Environmental Penalties: On October 6, the Ministry of the Environment introduced its draft environmental penalties regulations. These regulations will be used to implement the government's new anti-spills legislation, which allows a Ministry Director to impose financial penalties in response to spills, unlawful discharges and other violations. They are online for public comment until January 12, 2007.
Environmental Commissioner's Report: On October 3, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (â€œECO") released his annual report, entitled â€œNeglecting Our Obligations." Here are a few highlights of his report:
Great Lakes Sustainable Water Resources Agreement â€“ Signed in 2005, this agreement outlines the rules governing who gets to take water out of the Great Lakes, when, where, and under what conditions. The ECO praises the agreement, calling it groundbreaking and drawing attention to the hard work and political courage it took to draft this Agreement between Ontario and the eight Great Lakes states.
The ECO also raises concerns about the Agreement, noting that it is not binding and based on â€œgood faith". The ECO states that Ontario is in a shaky position regarding science and water conservation because of its limited capacity for monitoring, data sharing, and remediation. (More)
Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement â€“ This Canada/U.S. Agreement to protect the Great Lakes is implemented via a sub-agreement between Canada and Ontario, which is set to expire in March 2007. The ECO expresses concerns that the government may be failing to meet its commitments to the Great Lakes and recommends increased public involvement and accountability. (More)
Clean Water Act â€“ This new legislation attempts to protect drinking water supplies in Ontario by giving new powers to municipalities. The ECO raises a number of issues for the government to address: protecting waters outside the boundaries of Conservation Authorities; protecting the Great Lakes; improving the appeals process; aiding farmers; addressing historical threats; and paying to implement the new system. (More)
Spills legislation â€“ The ECO expresses concerns that the legislation (described above) may be compromised by the lack of resources for compliance staff to work with. According to the ECO, the new law â€œrepresents an important shift in the Ministry of the Environment's approach to regulating industrial polluters." (More)
Kingston's sewage bypasses â€“ In June 2005, Waterkeeper and the Canadian Environmental Law Association submitted a request for review of the City of Kingston's sewage works permits. The Ministry decided not to carry out the review, stating that there was not enough evidence of environmental harm. The ECO strongly disagreed with the Ministry, noting that there is evidence of bypass events, risk to health and environment, and inadequate public consultation. The ECO went on to criticize the MOE for its reliance on voluntary measures and stating, â€œOn the issue of regulating municipal sewage discharges, MOE has failed to show the required leadership." (More)
Fisheries Act enforcement â€“ The ECO criticizes the province for the constant changes to its Fisheries Act enforcement policy, writing â€œIn effect, this ongoing four-year saga of protocol revision and application is an abuse of process that has â€¦ insulated decision-makers in MOE and MNR from public concern about the evident continuing decline in the protection of fish and aquatic resources that inhibit waters supposedly protected by the FA." (More)