The ORA offers strong support for polluters being held accountable; however, that isn’t what’s happening here. Rather than strengthening enforcement tools that hold polluters accountable, this government is systematically and persistently dismantling, weakening or bypassing all environmental policy and legislation that was designed to protect the environment and deter those industries, corporations or individuals who would pollute and/or destroy the environment.
These ERO postings consistently mislead the public, especially in the top several paragraphs and titles, which contain misleading introductions to the proposed policy the government is proposing. In fact, you can always count on these “modernization” policy changes to be a further attack on environmental policy and legislation. It is even more despicable that these attacks have largely been carried out during the government’s declared COVID Emergency, where no public consultation is required, and what consultation that does take place is meaningless when the main objective is to cut red tape and remove any roadblocks to development and pollution, in spite of the public’s strong recommendations to protect the environment.
No new hydroelectric projects should be included in the short or long-term energy plan. Hydroelectric power generation is dirty energy resulting in significant ongoing negative impacts to riverine ecosystems, including, but not limited to GHG emissions (methane and Co2), degraded water quality, declining fish populations, methyl mercury contamination of fish, and ongoing harm to Indigenous communities.
If the SEV is not being taken seriously now, why would we believe it will be taken seriously when this new SEV is adopted? The MECP should respect and fulfill its SEV in all areas of its purpose, which is its promise to Ontario taxpayers. Rather than focusing so heavily on the economy the MECP must apply its SEV in the protection and conservation of the environment.
We, the 70 undersigned organizations, are deeply concerned about both the “sharp increase” in the use of Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZOs) over the past year and the enhanced powers granted to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing through amendments to the Planning Act, without public consultation, through Schedule 17 of Bill 197.
ORA submits that the MECP’s priority must be the pursuit of its Statement of Environmental Values (SEV), and its vision and mandate of “an Ontario with clean and safe air, land and water that contributes to healthy communities, ecological protection, and environmentally sustainable development for present and future generations”[i]. There is nothing in the MECP’s SEV that promises to “remove the regulatory burden” from industry or “provide some cost savings for dam owners and operators”. It is not the MECP’s duty to save dam owners and operators money or ease their regulatory burden. Its duty is to fulfill its Mandate to protect the environment and to follow its promise of environmentally sustainable development for our present and future generations. Certainly, MECP’s priority should not be to cut regulatory burden at the expense of our air, land and water. It is a tragedy that today’s cost savings for dam owners and operators will be borne on the backs of our children and grandchildren.
While the effects of large hydro projects (200 MW) have been well known and documented for over a century, small (up to 10 MW) and medium sized (10 MW to 200 MW) hydroelectric projects involve many of the same impacts per unit of power generated and, cumulatively, the environmental degradation can exceed that of large hydro projects. Small and medium sized hydro projects are situated on smaller and often more sensitive riverine ecosystems; however, like large hydro projects, will also alter the river’s flow regime and can have significant impacts on the aquatic environment, as flow is a major determinant of a river’s ecological characteristics and its aquatic biodiversity.
A recent study examined scaled hydropower impacts in the Nu River basin of southwestern China, where the researchers calculated impact per MW of capacity across 14 metrics between small and large hydropower projects (with small being below 50 MW as defined in Chinese policy). They found that small hydropower dams had greater impact per MW for 9 of the 14 metrics, including length of river channel affected and impact on habitat designated as conservation priorities.
The ORA strongly objects to any approach that eliminates the opportunity for public and Indigenous consultation and input regarding any sewage and stormwater infrastructure projects, especially any expansions or upgrades when they could have a negative environmental impact on the riverine environment and communities.
This ERO proposal describes the GRSs as providing “stringent protections for species at risk and their habitats under the Endangered Species Act”, but how stringent are these protections when the legislation can be so easily set aside? This means that protection and recovery under the ESA is uncertain for all species at risk.
The wording in this Environmental Registry posting is very misleading when it claims that “Ontario is committed to providing strong protections for species at risk and improving outcomes by modernizing and improving the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act, as committed to in our Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan”. This proposal is not improving the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), it is even doubtful it will increase the profits of private corporations. It will however be to the detriment of species at risk.
Please note that the Ontario government decision is to continue with the forestry industry exemption of the Endangered Species Act when logging in Crown forests: “A decision for this proposal has been published as a Bulletin under ERO 019-1995 on June 29, 2020.”
“Ontario has extended the temporary approach for forest operations conducted in Crown forests under the Endangered Species Act for an additional year. This will help avoid additional regulatory burden and economic strain on the forestry sector while a long-term approach is being considered.”
ORA is very concerned about the extreme deregulation that occurred with the recent waterpower exemption to the Permit to Take Water, and in this new Mercury Regulation where new and significantly redeveloped electricity producing dams have not been addressed. These important legislative requirements were designed to ensure hydroelectric facilities are held accountable for environmental and socio-economic impacts and risks to communities and riverine ecosystems.