The Ontario Waterpower Association (OWA) is extremely pleased with the provincial government’s inclusion of a key amendment to the Ontario Water Resources Act in the Better for People, Smarter for Business Act, 2019. The amendment was introduced on October 28, 2019 in the provincial legislature.
“I strongly commend this government’s leadership in removing the unnecessary costs and burden of being regulated by duplicative pieces of legislation,” said Paul Norris, president of OWA. “This elimination of overlap will both boost investor confidence and ensure that investment is made in projects rather than in process.”
In 2001, the province amended the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act to add and implement new requirements specifically applied to waterpower facilities across Ontario. Subsequent amendments to the Ontario Water Resources Act—like the Permit to Take Water regulation—targeted to address water takings added additional costs and processes for the waterpower industry.
The OWA and its industry members have long advanced the view that the existing provisions within the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act comprehensively regulate waterpower facilities in the Province of Ontario. The proposed amendment in the Better for People, Smarter for Business Act, 2019 is an important burden reduction measure that is expected to decrease costs by millions annually for the waterpower industry, according to OWA.
“This type of targeted approach to the reduction of regulatory burden is both prudent and progressive,” Norris added. “I look forward to continuing to work with the government to find efficiencies while ensuring the public interest is protected.”
It is very disappointing to see this purposeful disregard for the protection of the environment and public safety by the waterpower industry. This irresponsible move only serves to erode confidence in the ethical standards of the waterpower industry. The functions of a PTTW are in no way similar to a Water Management Plan (WMP), and not all waterpower facilities even have a WMP. The ORA will make our full comments through the Environmental Registry.
Additionally, the ERO proposal only transfers the responsibility of methylmercury over to MNRF, but there are numerous other functions that the PTTW serves to protect riverine ecosystems and public and Indigenous peoples interests.
A PTTW ensures the fair sharing of water, that there is enough water available for the aquatic ecosystem and other water users, requires annual monitoring and reporting to ensure water quality and water quantity, proper mitigation of any impacts, and a review is required every 10 years. It provides an appeal process and proper engagement opportunities for stakeholders and a Duty to Consult with Indigenous peoples.
On the other hand, WMPs are prepared by the industry for the industry, and not all waterpower facilities are required to have one. The WMPs developed under LRIA are prepared by the facility owner, not regularly reviewed by MNRF, and there is no public engagement or appeal process after the Plan is developed. It is a water management process for waterpower facilities by waterpower facilities. These WMPs, most now 10 years or older, balanced environmental concerns with the economic concerns of the Industry. As a result, they vary significantly in objectivity, data/information and the consideration of environmental matters which are key issues of interest in the PTTW. In addition, MNRF has since directed that no new WMPs need to be prepared. There are also some waterpower facilities that have been in operation for years and are not part of an approved WMP. I could go on and on about the insanity of this move by the waterpower industry.
The impacts of unfair sharing of water and irresponsible ramping rates are well known, and the temptation for a hydroelectric facility owner to maximize power production in order to make greater profits is great.
The economic, environmental, social and cultural impact of this proposal will be devastating and long-lasting to water quality and fisheries and will be most acutely felt in Indigenous communities.
As a First Nations right-holder, I strongly condemn this government proposal to yet again side with its own corporate sponsors in the name of “modernization of approvals/permit by rule”. It will only result in cost savings and add to the profit of private water power companies. It will further erode public oversight, breach the Honour of the Crown and run roughshod over First Nation treaty and inherent rights. How is that a proponent-based, private interest association was granted the authority to oversee its own environmental assessments (Class EA for Waterpower)? The resultant methyl mercury contamination is well documented scientifically. In B.C. and Atlantic Canada, it was only after public outcry and hunger strikes did the government sit up and take notice (e.g. Site C and Muskrat Falls). OWA would lead the public to believe that because it has it “best practise” manual (~voluntary compliance) written by Ducks Unlimited that that is somehow good enough. Sorry to say it is not good enough. First Nations have inherent and Constitutional rights to fish. Deliberate mercury contamination of any fish species is unethical and illegal and violates international conventions such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples UNDRIP). If the Ontario government continues down this ‘modernization of approvals’ path, it better be prepared to start tallying compensation to First Nations rights holders as per UNDRIP Article 28.
If you agree with the comments at the bottom of this page you can sign a petition that will go to the government to protest this proposed exemption to the Permit to Take Water. Petition is here: https://www.ontarioriversalliance.ca/petitions/?ct=t(Call_to_Action_ORA_needs_your_help_COPY_01)#