NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, ONT. — The Ontario government has announced a proposal to exempt low-impact waterpower projects from environmental assessments.
Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks Jeff Yurek was at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Power Generation plant Jan. 16 to launch plans for a new screening process for projects that have little or no negative environmental impact.
“We are looking to Class EA holders, like the Ontario Waterpower Association, to propose sensible, practical changes that would ensure strong environmental oversight while reducing delays on projects that matter most to Ontario communities,” said Yurek in a release. “This is an example of how our government is looking at smarter, more modern ways of doing business to remove unnecessary costs and delays for important public services and infrastructure projects.”
The release explained that a company like Ontario Power Generation must complete an environmental assessment when they replace an old generator. This assessment can take over a year to complete and cost up to $100,000 before the project can begin.
“This proposal would help Ontario Power Generation save significantly in costs and offers a real opportunity to achieve effective and practical improvements to the current environmental assessment process for low-impact projects,” said Jessica Polak, vice-president of operations for Ontario Power Generation’s South Central Operations. “The proposed changes would allow us to continue doing what we do best — provide clean, safe, reliable, low-cost power to the people of Ontario.”
Projects that meet the screening eligibility criteria would be required to notify the public, Indigenous communities and government agencies when they start the screening process and complete an assessment of potential environmental concerns.
The proposed amendments to the Ontario Waterpower Association’s Class Environmental Assessment will be posted in February for public review and comment.
The Ontario Waterpower Association’s Class EA for Waterpower Projects sets out a standard planning process for the 224 waterpower facilities across the province.