A number of stories that may have major impacts on Ontario's air, water and natural resources in the coming years made newspaper headlines in the last few days. Mostly concerned with energy issues, these stories appeared in a variety of national media:
Ontarians get a new environment minister: On October 31, 2007, Kingston and the Islands MPP John Gerretsen became Ontario's Minister of the Environment.Â Waterkeeper's Mark Mattson pointed to the long list of important environmental decisions being made in Gerretsen's region - the alternative fuels appeal, the new ethanol plant, sewage system upgrades, among others. "It's appropriate that Gerretsen is taking over the environment file because of the fact that so many key environment decisions will be made in eastern Ontario in the next few years," he told the Kingston Whig-Standard.
Government submits energy plan to Energy Board for hearing On October 31, the Government of Ontario submitted its power system plan to Ontario's electricity regulator for approval. This is the plan that breathes new life into Ontario's aging nuclear sector and was exempted from the provincial environmental assessment process in June 2006. Generally, the Energy Board will study the government's plan to ensure it protects the interests of consumers and promotes an economic and cost effective energy system. Individuals and organizations wishing to be part of the Ontario Energy Board hearing have until November 14 to submit intervention requests.
Ontario Power Generation asks for electricity rate hikes to fund new nuclear plants On November 2, OPG announced it will also ask the Ontario Energy Board to approve a 14% rate increase in the new year to help fund the construction of new nuclear power plants. OPG fears that, without the rate hike, the company will go "deep into debt" trying to finance new nuclear and hydroelectric projects. The new nuclear power plants have not yetÂ completed the provincial or federal assessment processes, though one new plant is being proposed on Lake Ontario.
Federal government debates new liability regime for nuclear power On October 30, 2007 Bill C-5, An Act respecting civil liability and compensation for damage in case of a nuclear incident, passed second reading in the House of Commons. Bill C-5 raises a nuclear operator's liability from $75-million to $650-million. At the same time, it protects manufacturers of nuclear components and leaves Canadian taxpayers on the hook in the case of a nuclear incident. This kind of blanket liability protection for an industry is unprecedented, making it one of the most important pieces of legislation in the Canadian energy sphere. As one opposition MP declared, without it, "nobody would ever produce nuclear energy in our country," a statement that acknowledges the hazards of the nuclear industry while staunchly defending it. (1050)
Natural Resources Canada lobbies ... itself On November 5, the Canadian Press released contents from a recent audit that shows the Department of Natural Resources spent almost $1-million in 2006 on memberships in professional bodies that lobby the federal government. The names of individuals or of the organizations they have joined were not released - the audit raises concerns of conflicts-of-interest, however, and new policies are expected soon. Natural Resources Canada - the agency which oversees renewable energy, nuclear power, forestry and mining - paid nearly twice as much as any other government department on these membership fees.
This week, Living at the Barricades evaluates the state of environmental policy following Ontario's recent election. Hosts Mark Mattson and Krystyn Tully discuss the new Ontario Minister of the Environment, the Nuclear Liability Act, the impact of lobbying on environmental decision making, and more. President of renewable energy provider Bullfrog Power, Tom Heinzman, contributes his thoughts on Ontario Power Generation's announced rate hikes.