A highly controversial environmental assessment study under the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act was completed 23 years ago. It concluded that the project would cause adverse effects to fish habitat including severe stormwater and groundwater impacts. The environmental assessment did not evaluate the impacts on species at risk, migratory birds or climate change. This study has not been updated.
The provincial regulatory process is grossly inadequate.
The ORA favours conservation of Ontario’s natural resources, and most especially as it relates to fish and their habitat. ORA agrees that the Ministry should apply existing federal government guidance for fines and increase the use of contravention tickets for more types of offences. It makes sense to issue tickets rather than using the federal court process.
Bill 229 is just the most recent in a long list of omnibus bills containing devastating amendments, exemptions and streamlining of key environmental policy and legislation designed to protect our environment and communities and provide the public and stakeholders with meaningful input. These government actions have created a deep erosion of public trust and confidence. It is unacceptable that it would mislead its citizens and bypass the norms by taking advantage of a world-wide health emergency to aggressively push their destructive agenda through.
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.
Instead of exemptions or a more streamlined Class EAW, the OWA should be proposing amendments to provide for a much more rigorous and accountable process that ensures fish friendly turbines, effective and safe fish passage, a more rigorous cumulative effects assessment, and a more comprehensive and meaningful consultation process. We should be making our rivers more resilient in the face of climate change – not exempting waterpower projects from the Class EAW. Instead, the OWA and the Ontario government are placing our environment and communities at risk.
The Rudd Dam’s headpond had essentially turned into a large wetland created by over 100 years of sediment accumulating behind the dam, and the shallow pond’s water temperature was no longer viable brook trout habitat. After the removal of the Rudd Dam the water temperature was reduced and brook trout habitat was made more resilient to a warming climate. It was also an earthen dam that had already failed once, and the dam owner’s objective was to reduce his risk and liability.
The government recommendation asks whether the current concentrations of the chemical “exceed” the benchmarks or guidelines. This implies that we are okay until the benchmarks or guidelines are exceeded. This is not true. Health impacts don’t suddenly start to occur when you cross that narrow threshold of meeting the threshold and move into exceeding. We are already in trouble once we are near or have met the benchmarks or guidelines.
Removing the regulatory baseline for 113 of Ontario’s most heavily polluting facilities in nine environmentally damaging sectors is the wrong approach if the Government of Ontario’s goal is to hold polluters accountable, as it has stated on several occasions. In order to achieve that goal, the MISA regulations should be updated and expanded to new facilities operating in Ontario across the nine industrial sectors.
With the warming temperatures and extreme rain and drought events that climate change is predicted to bring with increasing frequency and intensity as time passes, decision makers and legislators bear a responsibility to strengthen freshwater protection and resiliency – not weaken it. If this proposal moves forward it will be a precipitous turning point for our future with freshwater in Ontario and beyond.
You will find ORA’s submissions regarding Bill 132 here.
Check out ORA’s speech to the Standing Committee on General Government: Continue reading
With climate change impacts bearing down on us, decision makers have a responsibility to ensure the resiliency of our freshwater resources. If this proposal moves forward it will be a precipitous turning point for our future with freshwater in Ontario and beyond.